The rules which govern the conduct of civil litigation in England and Wales provide for where proceedings should be served where a party has not specifically nominated an address for service (such as a solicitor).
As a consequence of regulations made in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 people are not allowed to leave the place where they live without reasonable excuse. This means that those carrying on business are unlikely to be doing so from their business premises but instead working from home.
The rules provide that proceedings against an individual being sued in the name of a business (such as a sole trader) or a partnership should be served at their usual or last known residence of the individual or last known place of business. It is possible that the parties will have corresponded with the business only at the trading address but where the business premises is closed and the individual is carrying on business from home service at the business address may well be invalid causing procedural issues and delay. This is because the serving party must take reasonable steps to ascertain the receiving party’s current residence or place of business and in the current climate that address may well be their home
Before serving proceedings, care should be taken to ascertain whether the business address is different to the receiving party’s residence and ensure that proceedings are served at the correct address and not at an address which is closed indefinitely. Other possibilities to avoid any issues arising could be to seek the receiving party’s agreement to accept service by email or fax.
Issues with service during lockdown will also inevitably arise in landlord and tenant scenarios. For example, where a party wishes to exercise a break clause in a lease there are often strict requirements with regard to method and place of service which, if not complied with, render service invalid.
If you have any questions about the impact these changes will have on you as either Landlord or Tenant to discuss the options available to you, please contact Steven Ross, Partner by email (firstname.lastname@example.org); telephone (0207 644 7261) or contact him on LinkedIn.