The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in Livewest v Bamber  EWCA Civ 1174 – a case concerned with whether or not 6 months notice is required to end a fixed term tenancy by the use of a break clause.
In February 2017 Miss Bamber was granted a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy for 7 years of residential premises. That tenancy contained a break clause that Livewest were entitled under the terms of the tenancy to exercise at any time during the starter period, which was an initial period of 12 months capable of extension for a further 6 months (giving a total potential starter period of 18 months).
During the starter period Livewest exercised the break clause due to allegations of anti social behaviour and served a two month notice that complied with section 21(1) of the Housing Act 1988 and the conditions for the exercise of the break clause in the tenancy.
The issue on this appeal was whether or not sections 21(1A) and 21(1B) of the Housing Act 1988, which were introduced by the Localism Act 2011, meant that a six month notice had to be served. Section 21(1A) of the Housing Act 1988 states that section 21(1B) of the Housing Act 1988 applies to an assured shorthold tenancy if “it is a fixed term tenancy for a term certain of not less than two years” and “the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing.” The argument of Miss Bamber was that these conditions were both fulfilled and therefore the effect of section 21(1B) of the Housing Act 1988 was that a six month notice was required.
In the High Court ( EWHC 2454) Miss Bamber’s argument was rejected on the basis that at the time the court came to consider the case the tenancy was no longer a fixed term tenancy for a term certain of not less than two years and therefore the first condition in section 21(1A) of the Housing Act 1988 was not satisfied. The Court of Appeal (at paragraph 42) agree that this analysis cannot be correct as this would be to render the provisions of no effect – by the time the court comes to consider a tenancy in any case it cannot still be a fixed term tenancy. However, the Court of Appeal took the view that a purposive and restrictive approach should be taken towards the word “expiry” in section 21(1B) of the Housing Act 1988 with the effect that this should be read as meaning expiry by the effluxion of time only in this context. This means that the requirement to serve a six month notice only applies where the tenancy in question is being brought to an end by the effluxion of time and therefore does not apply where a break clause is being exercised.
An additional issue that is briefly mentioned in this appeal is whether or not, in cases where section 21(1B) of the Housing Act 1988 does apply, the 6 month notice must be served before or at the end of the fixed term tenancy in order to have effect. Whilst Patten LJ offered a provisional obiter view on this all three members of the Court of Appeal have left this issue to be decided in a future case where the point is of direct application.
A copy of the full judgment can be found here:
Miss Bamber was represented throughout by Russell James of Magdalen Chambers and Cathy Morley of Shelter (Plymouth).