Speeding up on assignment of a lease

Tick followed tock followed tick… or so the Guinness advert goes. And for a tenant, the waiting period between applying for a landlord’s consent to a dealing and receiving their response can often be an exercise in patience. Most commercial leases contain provisions controlling dealings that generally confirm that a tenant cannot assign or underlet a lease without landlord’s consent, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld. Some leases go further than this and provide that such consent may also not be unreasonably delayed; however, even where the lease does not specifically contain this provision, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1988 may oblige the landlord to give consent within a reasonable time, unless it is reasonable not to give consent. The question therefore arises as to what actually is a reasonable time.

The act only applies where a tenant makes a written application for consent that is served on a landlord. Therefore, in order to set the clock running, the tenant must ensure that the provisions of the act and any relevant provisions in the lease are complied with. In the recent case of E.ON UK plc v Gilesports Ltd, it was confirmed that an application made by email was sufficient to satisfy the requirement in the act for a written application; however, it transpired in this case that service by email was not sufficient and so the tenant’s notice had been invalidly served. The act confirms that an application will be validly served if done so in a manner provided for in the lease (or if the tenancy is silent, in accordance with the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927). Most leases make provision for service of notice, and such provisions often incorporate the provisions as to service of notices contained in section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925. That section confirms that a notice will be sufficiently served if it is left at, or sent by registered post to, the last known place of business of the landlord…

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