Or be careful what you write to your tenant
Saxon Weald Homes Ltd v Chadwick  Court of Appeal
This is a housing association case, but private landlords would do well to be aware of it.
Most housing association tenancies are assured tenancies but new tenants are often given assured shorthold ‘probationary’ tenancies for a year. If they show themselves to be good tenants, the tenancy is then converted to an assured tenancy by serving a notice.
The big difference between assured and assured shorthold tenancies is that it is much easier to evict assured shorthold tenants as you have the benefit of the section 21 ‘shorthold’ ground for possession. The main mandatory ground for possession for assured tenancies is the rent arrears one, so once the tenancies have been converted, it is difficult to evict the tenants for anti social behaviour problems.
As there were complaints of anti social behaviour against Chadwick, who suffered from depression and mental health problems, the Housing Association served a section 21 notice on him on 5 August 2009.
However then on 11 August the association, in error, sent a letter to the tenant confirming that he had completed his probationary tenancy and that he was “now an assured tenant”.
The association subsequently issued proceedings for possession based on the section 21 notice, and the Judge at first instance granted the order on the basis that the letter telling him he was an assured tenant was clearly sent in error.
However on appeal both to the Judge and to the Court of Appeal, the court found for Chadwick. Although the letter was sent in error, it was clear and unambiguous and the association was bound by it.
The moral of this case is:
You have to be careful what you send to your tenant. If a wrong notice is sent in error, that fact that it was sent by mistake will not mean that it is invalid. In particular do not write to your assured shorthold tenant telling them that they have an assured tenancy!