There are two main statutory rights that tenants have relating to their landlords address, one under the civil law and one under the criminal law (see the difference between the two here).
- The civil law right is under s48 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1987, and
- The criminal law right is under s1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985
Lets take a look at these.
Section 48 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1987
The reason behind this section is that there will sometimes be circumstances under which a tenant will need to sue his landlord. However in order to sue someone you need to have an address for them, in this country (ie in England / Wales) so the court paperwork can be served on them.
If a landlord fails to provide his address to his tenants, or lives outside ‘the jurisdiction’ (as we lawyers call it), then this puts the tenant at a disadvantage. He will not be able to bring a claim.
So Parliament has helped the tenant by making it a legal requirement for all landlords to provide their tenants with details of an address, in England and Wales, where their tenants can serve notices on them, including notices in Court proceedings.
The section is given ‘teeth’ as the tenant is legally entitled to withhold his rent until such time as the address is provided.
Mind you, tenants should not spend the money because as soon as the address is provided (in what is generally known as a s48 notice although it does not have to be in any particular form – a letter will do) then the tenant’s right to withhold the rent is lost and all the back rent immediately falls due.
However s48 is a powerful right for tenants, and landlords have lost claims for possession based on rent arrears when they have issued proceedings before serving a s48 notice on the their tenants.
Section 1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985
Under this section, where a tenant does not know his landlords name and address, he can request this in writing from the landlord’s agent or the person who collects the rent.
Once the request is made, this person must provide the information, in writing, within 21 days.
If he fails to provide the information ‘without reasonable excuse’ then this is a criminal offence punishable by a fine.
The problem is that, for the person to be punished, they must first be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court. And most tenants don’t know how to do that. I have to confess that I don’t know how to do it either, never having done any Magistrates Court work when I was in practice.
If at all possible though you will want to persuade someone else to bring the prosecution for you – or at least threaten to do so.
Most people will think of the Police when something is a criminal offence, but the Police are generally unwilling to get in involved in housing issues, which they will usually dismiss as being a ‘civil matter’ (even when it concerns a criminal offence).
The majority of housing related prosecutions are brought by Local Authorities.
However Local Authorities nowadays are so short of staff that they often find it difficult to bring all the prosecutions they should for more serious matters and are unlikely to want to use up their valuable time for something relatively minor such as this.
Although if you have a friendly Tenancy Relations Officer, you may be able to persuade him to write a letter for you.
The best course of action
The best course of action will really depend on why you want to know the address in the first place. If it is because you want to sue, then use s48.
Just be careful not to spend the money, as it will all fall due once the address has been provided (best to just put it in an interest bearing bank account and leave it there).
However be aware that under s48 a landlord does not have to give his OWN address. It just needs to be somewhere you can serve notices. So often the address given is the letting agents address.
There is nothing wrong with this – and if the agents address is given then, if you issue proceedings, that is where you should serve the paperwork.
But maybe you want the landlords address for another reason? Maybe, for example, you want to inform the landlord about the bad practices of his agent. In which case, the agent will have a vested interest in not telling you.
However, here your Local Authority TRO may be willing to help you (under the L&T1985 s1). There’s no harm in asking anyway. Most agents will not want to risk a prosecution as it will affect their credibility.
Finally, if you want to know the landlords address so you can go and throw stones through his window and embarrass him by standing outside his house telling everyone what a rotten landlord he is – well you are unlikely to get much help here, It might even be considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ for the agents to withhold it.
The Land Registry
Alternatively, you can always do a search at the Land Registry to find out who the owner of the property is. Bear in mind though that the owner of the property may not necessarily be your landlord. The property could have been sublet, and your landlord’s tenancy may not be registered.
However its somewhere to start if the other methods are not getting you anywhere.