The Court of Appeal has been asked to decide whether a notice to quit served on an agricultural tenant was valid. The notice had been served on his address stated in the lease and not his new address that he had notified to the landlord.

Grimes v The Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt [2017] EWCA Civ 361 concerned a large agricultural holding which Mr Grimes farmed. He and his father had done so as tenants of the local hunt for a number of years under successive tenancy agreements. In 2005 his tenancy agreement was renegotiated and two consecutive agreements were signed, each one for a three year term, together running until 30 September 2012.

During negotiation of the agreements Mr Grimes had moved house from Glebe Way, Burnham-on-Crouch to Maple Way in the same town. The agreements recorded his address as being the Glebe Way property but, on making his first rental payment under the new tenancy in December 2006, Mr Grimes informed the landlord, in writing, of his new address and contact details.

In 2011, the landlord served a notice to quit the holding on Mr Grimes, requiring him to vacate the property at the end of the second tenancy agreement on 30 September 2012. This was delivered to the Glebe Way address.

Unsuccessful negotiations took place for a new letting and, eventually, the property was let to a third party. Mr Grimes claimed that the notice to quit was invalid because it had been delivered to his old address. He claimed to have been wrongfully dispossessed of the property and entitled to damages.

The decision of the court turned on its interpretation of this notice provision in the tenancy agreement:

'Either party may serve any notice .on the other side at the address given in the Particulars or such other address as has previously been notified in writing.'

At first instance, the trial judge applied a literal interpretation of these words: that good notice could be effected either at the address stated in the lease (Glebe Way) or at the address that had since been notified (Maple Way).

The Court of Appeal disagreed. It found that the trial judge was wrong to apply the literal meaning of the words alone, out of context. The authorities require that, in construing a contract, 'the court must consider the contract as a whole and, depending on the nature, formality and quality of drafting of the contract, give more or less weight to elements of the wider context in reaching its view as to that objective meaning'.

The correct interpretation was obvious: the parties cannot sensibly have intended that the serving party should continue to have the option of serving a notice at the old address once it had been notified of the new one. They must have intended that the new address should be a substitute for the old address.

Accordingly the landlord's notice to quit was invalidly served because it had been delivered to the tenant's old address and not to its new address which had been notified.