Clerical errors in notice exercising right to give notice to determine a lease

In Carradine Properties Ltd v Aslam ([1976] 1 W.L.R. 442) a lease included a break clause giving the landlord the right to determine the lease on September 27 1975. By mistake, the notice (served in 1974) purported to terminate the lease on September 27 1973. The question was whether or not this slip invalidated the notice. It was held that the notice was valid. As a matter of construction (having regard to the relevant factors as they applied in this case) it was clear that the notice sought to exercise the right to terminate the lease on September 27 1975. Goulding J. thought that the same approach to construction would be equally applicable to a notice to quit in relation to a periodic tenancy.

Goulding J. explained the test as follows:

‘I would put the test generally applicable as being this: “Is the notice quite clear to a reasonable tenant reading it? Is it plain that he cannot be misled by it?” Applying that test, if applicable, to the present case, I think the notice would be saved because the tenant receiving that notice and knowing the terms of the lease must have seen there was a mistake, as it would not say “1973” in 1974. Once that is accepted, it is obvious that the notice is for 1975 and not 1973. In no ordinary circumstances would a reasonable tenant knowing the terms of the lease take the notice as being other than for 1975. It therefore seems to me that if one applies the test I have mentioned, then the notice would be saved.’ (444)

A little later:

‘In an option clause the requirement is that a party must strictly comply with the condition for its exercise. If the condition includes the giving of a particular notice, it seems to me that the logical first approach is to interpret the notice, looking at the words and applying legal principles to their construction, and then ask whether it complies with the strict requirements as to exercise of the option. If that is right, I think a benevolent approach could be applied in this case, as in the Duke of Bedford’s case (1796) 7 Term Rep. 63, because reasonably read by a reasonable tenant the mistake is obvious on the face of it, and there is no doubt what the mistake was. Therefore one interprets the notice as asserting an intention to  determine in 1975. It is true that if whoever made the mistake had typed 1976 instead of 1973, the error would probably have been incurable because although the tenant might suspect there was a slip, it might be that the landlord did intend 1976, not knowing or understanding his rights under the lease. In such a case the tenant would be entitled to disregard the notice but because a past date was given in the notice it is insensible and therefore an authority such as the Duke of Bedford’s case is in point.’ (446)

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