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The Court of Appeal has exploded the commonly held view that a party must consent to service by electronic means of a notice or document under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 (PWA 1996).
In Knight v Goulandris  EWCA Civ 237 it held that the list of methods by which notices or documents can be served provided in section 15 PWA 1996 is permissive not exhaustive.
Section 15 PWA 1996 lists the means by which any notice or other document required or authorised to be served under PWA 1996 “may” be served. As originally enacted, the list did not include service by email. So by Order effective from 6 April 2016 (the 2016 Order) s.15(1A)-(1C) PWA 1996 was inserted to provide that a notice or document “may also be served” by electronic means but only if (i) the recipient has stated a willingness to receive the notice or document by such means, (ii) that statement has not been withdrawn and (iii) the recipient has specified an electronic address.
The court expressed no view on whether the 2016 Order was ultra vires or based on a misapprehension about the limit of section 15 PWA 1996. It held that the word “may” is explicable by reference to the choice which section 15 gives between alternative methods of service. But the list provided in section 15 is not the last word on the means of service.
Doubtless the Party Wall surveyor community will welcome the convenience and cost saving which service by email provides. However, as the court acknowledged, the listed methods of service in section 15 PWA 1996 assist a serving party by presuming that the document has been served, even if the intended recipient refuses to accept it or (in cases of service by post) he never actually receives it. Service by email leaves the burden with the sending
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