• In the case of Kinch v Bullard 1998 4 ALL ER 650 it was held that notice to sever is severed at the time that it is delivered to the address of the addressee, and it does not matter that since the notice has been sent, the sender changed their mind or that the addressee did not actually view the notice.

Facts of the Case

  • The beneficial joint tenants were husband and wife of a property which they occupied as the matrimonial home.
  • In 1995 the wife, who was terminally ill, commenced divorce proceedings and instructed her solicitors to prepare and serve on the husband a notice of severance of the joint tenancy with the intention to prevent the operation of the doctrine of survivorship.
  • On 3rd August her solicitor sent the notice by fist class post to the husband at the matrimonial home.
  • During the weekend of 5th/6th August, the husband suffered a heart attack.
  • Sometime between the 5th and 7th of August, the postman put the notice through the letter box of the property whereupon the wife, who had changed her mind about wanting to sever the joint tenancy, destroyed it.
  • The husband later died on 15th August and the wife died on 6th January 1996.
  • The husbands’ executors sought as against the wife’s’ executors declarations that they were entitled to a one-half beneficial share if the property or its proceeds of the sale and issued a summons for the determination of the issue of whether the positing to and subsequent delivery at the property of the notice was effect enough to sever the beneficial joint tenancy under The Law of Property Act 1925.

Issues in Kinch v Bullard 1998 4 ALL ER 650

  • The issues in this case relate to at what point the severance of a tenancy commences after posting the notice.
  • Can a notice be rebutted if the sender changers their mind and the receiver never receives the notice.

Held by High Court (Chancery Division)

  • Appeal allowed due to proper service that the notice had been left at the last known abode or place of business of the addressee.

Neuberger J

  • If notice could be shown to have been left at the last known abode or place of business of the addressee, then that constituted good service even if the addressee did not actually receive it.
  • If that provided service was at the last known abode or place of business, then the method of service was immaterial, and that once the procedure had been set and the notice severed, it was not open to the giver of the notice to withdraw it.
  • The fact that the giver had changed their mind by the date of delivery was of no consequence.
  • The husband’s executors were entitled to a declaration that the joint tenancy had been effectively severed.