The exotically titled Grimes v The Trustees of the Essex Farmers & Union Hunt  has provided a salutary reminder of potential pitfalls which may befall a landlord when serving notices upon their tenants. The case in question concerned a notice to quit served pursuant to an agricultural tenancy, but the Court's decision is of wider application reaffirming the approach taken by the Courts on questions of lease interpretation.
Two tenancy agreements were entered into in 2006 pursuant to which the tenant had his address listed as 24 Glebe Way. However in 2005 the Tenant had moved to a new address of 44 Maple Way. The tenancies contained standard notice provisions which included that "either party may serve any notice (including any notice in proceedings) on the other at the address given in the Particulars or such other address as has previously been notified in writing."
The notice to quit served by the Landlord was sent to the Tenant's old address. The Tenant claimed that he had sent a handwritten note to the Landlord in December 2006 informing it of his new address. Although the Landlord denied receiving this the Court held that such note had been sent and that the Landlord should have been aware of it.
Notwithstanding this, the Landlord argued that the relevant notice to quit was still validly served for the purposes of the tenancies because the word 'or' in the drafting of the tenancies created additional service options for the Landlord, rather than replacing the original service address.
The Court of Appeal took a different view reasoning that the notice provisions had to be considered in the context of the contract as a whole. It was a matter of commercial common sense, given that the tenancies were to run for at least 6 years, that to be valid notices should be served at a party's current address. 'Or' in this context should be interpreted as substitutive in effect and not on its pure literal meaning.
This is a clear reaffirmation of the purposive approach the Court will take on matters of construction and serves as a warning for landlords and tenants that they should not expect to rely on literal drafting which is contrary to commercial common sense.