Breaking up is hard to do — Friends Life v Siemens Hearing Instruments

The Mannai case in 1997 made it clear that substantial compliance with a break notice was not sufficient; both the formal and the substantial elements must be adhered to. Mannai involved a break notice that included an incorrect date. In fact, the break notice was held to be valid because there was no express requirement to specify a date, so the wrong one did not invalidate the notice.

That was not the case in the recent decision, Friends Life Ltd v Siemens Hearing Instruments Ltd. Here the break clause stipulated that the notice ‘must be expressed to be given under section 24(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954’. The requirement is a historic one where it was once considered possible for a tenant to break a lease and then seek a new one on more favourable terms under section 26 of the act. Expressing the break notice to be under section 24(2) prevented that, but the court cases in the 1990s put an end to the practice as well, leading the High Court in Friends Life to consider it was not strictly necessary and should not render the break notice invalid. The Court of Appeal disagreed. The requirement was that the notice ‘must be expressed’ to be under section 24(2) and failure to follow clear express stipulations, however redundant or unnecessary, rendered the notice invalid…

Click on the link below to read the rest of the Walker Morris briefing.

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