Perplexed by property law? Relax, Solicitor Beatrice Gallivan is here to answer your most pressing questions.
Q: I am the registered proprietor of an unoccupied and derelict building. The local authority has informed me that they served notice on me under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 section 215 at the address in the Land Registry entry, regarding a need to undertake specific remedial work to the building which is dilapidated. I was intending to renovate the property in two years' time when funds should be available, however the local authority are now saying that they can knock down the building then recover the cost of doing so from me. However, I had not seen a copy of the notice up until this point as I do not reside at that address and have never done so. The local authority had my correct residential address which they use for council tax bills. Was the notice validly served on me?
A: Service of notices on an individual's "last known address", and the question of how far one needs to go to find the missing person before the "last known address" can be relied on for service can be a tricky issue.
In this context, under section 223 of the Local Government Act 1972 and section 329 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the notice should have been served on your "last known address" or by leaving it at your "usual or last known place of abode". Similarly, under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 6.9(2) "usual or last known residence" is the default for service.
The relevant question is whether it is good service for the local authority to serve the notice on your address listed in the proprietorship register. Unfortunately, it has recently been made clear by the Court of Appeal that the address given in the Land Registry entry for the owner of a property is going to be the starting point for the address to be used to serve a notice relating to that property. The local authority were not required to have contacted all of its departments to find out whether they were in correspondence with the owner. Its obligations to make "reasonable enquiries" went no further than to search the proprietorship register to ascertain the address of the registered proprietor. If the individual serving the notice was notified of a more recent address than that shown in the proprietorship register for service of notices relating to this property, then notice should also have been served on that address.
Therefore, it would follow in your case that the notice was correctly served on you despite you not living at the property. It is the registered proprietor's duty to update the address, and the case above is a good reminder of the importance of doing so. There are other reasons for keeping the proprietorship register up to date, for example, an adverse possession claim will only ever be served on that address.