Who can sign an eviction notice on behalf of a company?
By s.8 Housing Act 1988 Act, the court may not “entertain proceedings for possession” unless the landlord has served a notice in the prescribed form or the court has dispensed with the need for such a notice. The prescribed form requires the notice to be signed by the landlord or someone acting on their behalf.
Further, where a deposit is paid in respect of an assured shorthold tenancy, the landlord (or any person acting on their behalf) must arrange for it to be protected in accordance with an authorised scheme. The landlord must give the tenant prescribed information regarding the scheme. The prescribed information must be accompanied by a certificate, signed by the landlord, confirming the accuracy of the information. A failure to provide the prescribed information or confirmatory certificate may result in the tenant obtaining an order that the landlord must pay damages in a sum not less than the deposit paid and not more than three times the amount of the deposit.
A company (per the Companies Act 2006, s.44) is taken to have executed a document if either: (i) it affixes its common seal; (ii) it signs by two authorised signatories; or, (iii) it signs by a director of the company in the presence of a witness who attests the signature.
In the case of Cooke v Northwood (Solihull) Ltd Ms Cooke was the assured shorthold tenant of Northwood (Solihull) Ltd. She paid a deposit and was given the prescribed information, including a certificate signed by a director of the landlord company. Rent arrears subsequently accrued and the landlord served a notice seeking possession; the notice was signed by one of the landlord company's employees. Possession proceedings were issued.
Ms Cooke defended those proceedings and contended that the only way in which a corporate landlord could sign the notice was in accordance with s.44, Companies Act 2006, which had not been complied with in her case. She also issued a counter-claim for damages for non-compliance with the tenancy deposit provisions, contending that the confirmatory certificate was also required to be signed in accordance with s.44, 2006 Act, which, again, it had not been.
The Circuit Judge rejected her argument on the s.8 notice but accepted it as regards the confirmatory certificate. That decision was upheld by the High Court. Both parties appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal held that there was no requirement for either the notice seeking possession or the confirmatory certificate to be signed in accordance with s.44. What mattered in each case was that the signatory was a person who had the authority to sign on behalf of the landlord; both the director and the employee were authorised and the notice and certificate were valid.
For advice on tenant evictions, please contact Oliver Kew on 01189 575337 or at email@example.com
Published on 31/01/2022