Absentee or non-resident tenants who do not leave their landlords with a forwarding address place themselves in acute legal danger. In one case, a tenant who failed to take that sensible step suffered forfeiture of her 140-year lease due to her non-payment of a service charge demand.
The tenant did not leave her landlord a correspondence address when she moved abroad. There was evidence that the flat’s letterbox overflowed with unopened mail in her absence. A service charge demand for more than £11,000 was posted to the empty flat. Under the terms of her lease, her tenancy was liable to forfeiture if the demand remained unpaid for 21 days.
After that deadline came and went, her landlord took possession of the flat by peaceable re-entry, thereby forfeiting the lease. He granted a new lease to his daughter, who subsequently sold the property for £290,000. Lengthy and complex legal proceedings ensued, culminating in a claim by the tenant for damages on the basis that the landlord had been unjustly enriched at her expense.
Dismissing her claim, the court found that the landlord had done precisely what the lease permitted him to do. He was entitled to forfeit the lease and there was nothing unjust about what occurred. The landlord having long since terminated the lease and lawfully recovered possession of the flat, the tenant had left it too late to seek relief from forfeiture.