Telchadder – v – Wickland Holdings Limited  UKSC 57, 5 November 2014
This case did not involve a Gypsy or a Traveller but it has great significance for Gypsies and Travellers living on rented sites.
Under the Mobile Homes Act (MHA) 1983 Part 1 of Schedule 1, Chapter 2 Paragraph 4 (with regard to the ability to terminate an agreement for breach of that agreement) states as follows:-
The owner shall be entitled to terminate the agreement forthwith if, on the application of the owner, the appropriate judicial body – (a) is satisfied that the occupier has breached a term of the agreement and after service of a notice to remedy the breach, has not complied with the notice within a reasonable time; and (b) considers it reasonable for the agreement to be terminated.
Lord Wilson gave the majority judgment of the Supreme Court (there was also a minority judgment).
By his agreement, Mr Telchadder, who is an occupier of a mobile home park run by Wickland, undertook not to act in such a way as to annoy or disturb other occupiers of the park. One of the site rules forbade residents to carry offensive weapons or any other objects likely to give offence while on the park and another rule repeated the prohibition against acts of annoyance to other residents.
By letter of 15th August 2006 to Mr Telchadder, Wickland wrote as follows:-
…there is the…..extremely serious matter of your behaviour in that you are dressing in what appears to be military combat clothing and obscuring your face with a mask while outside your home in the park area.
You are also making unwanted approaches to some Residents while dressed in this manner causing alarm and distress.
Your apparel in itself is not a great problem but not really desirable or in keeping with Meadowview Park, it is your actions which are not acceptable in that:-
a) On no account must you mask or obscure your face when you are in any area of the park outside your home; b) On no account must you make unsolicited approaches or advances to other residents on Meadowview Park; c) Should you ignore either a) or b) you will leave us no alternative but to apply to Colchester Court to have your Agreement terminated and your home removed from Meadowview Park.
Judge Maloney at first instance held that this letter amounted to a notice to remedy the breach. The Court of Appeal agreed with him. The central fact in this appeal was that Mr Telchadder committed no further breach of the agreement until 15 July 2009, almost 3 years after the notice dated 15th August 2006. There were, thereafter, certain other incidents of anti-social behaviour. The first question was whether a notice to remedy a breach had to be served if that breach was not capable of a remedy. Lord Wilson stated:-
In my opinion, the question has only to be asked for it to be rejected. It would be nonsensical to require service of a notice to remedy a breach which is incapable of remedy (para 20).
The next challenge for the Court was to identify the nature of a breach which, in the context of MHA 1983, is capable of remedy.
Lord Wilson stated:-
To an enquiry whether, and if so how, the mischief resulting from [what Mr Telchadder did according to the letter mentioned above] could be redressed, the practical response is to say: yes, of course it can be redressed by his committing no further breach of his covenant against anti-social behaviour for a reasonable time (para 32).
Lord Wilson continued, on the question of “reasonable time”:-
It remains only to consider whether in all the circumstances the period of almost three years during which Mr Telchadder complied with the notice dated 15 August 2006 amounted to a reasonable time for him to comply with it. My view is that it clearly did so; and it is inappropriate to speculate about whether some shorter period will also have done so. In retrospect it is obvious that, following the breach dated 15 July 2009 [the first of the later incidents], Wickland should have served a further notice to remedy; or, in the light of its seriousness, have raised an allegation that it was irremediable, upon which, no doubt, there would have been lively argument.
Lord Wilson concluded:-
I would allow Mr Telchadder’s appeal and we determine the issues identified…above as follows:-
i) an occupier can in principal ‘remedy’ a breach of a covenant against anti-social behaviour but some such breaches are so serious as to be irremediable; …. iii) (a) the occupier ‘complies’ with the notice to remedy a remediable breach of such a covenant by not committing any further breach of it within a reasonable time.
(b) the effect of his obligation not to do so within a reasonable time is that he must not do so for a reasonable time.