Important Changes for Landlords from 1st October 2015
With the new Deregulation Act 2015 some important changes are coming into force on 1st October 2015 regarding section 21 notices, and landlords’ further responsibility to tenants. The rules really affect ASTs (‘assured short hold tenancies’) that begin on or after 1st October 2015.
For ASTs starting before 1st October 2015
In relation to serving Section 21 Notices:
- Landlords can still serve a section 21 notice at any time during the tenancy.
- There is no change to the form of the section 21 notices you use.
- There is no time limit after which a section 21 notice expires – unless you give your tenants a new fixed term tenancy, or arguably if you change the terms and conditions of the tenancy, for example by increasing the rent.
For older tenancies, the rules above will change in October 2018 to the rules set out below.
For ASTs starting on or after 1st October 2015
Most importantly, for ASTs that begin on or after this date, you now need to provide the following documents to tenants at the start of each fixed term tenancy:
- Gas appliance safety certificate.
- An energy performance certificate (EPC).
- The government’s document called ‘How to rent: The checklist for renting in England’ – Go to How to Rent Checklist
In relation to serving section 21 notices:
- Landlords can only serve a section 21 notice after 4 months of the first tenancy.
- The form of the section 21 notice has to be in the new ‘prescribed form’ (available online before 1st October 2015).
- 6 Month limit after which a section 21 notice expires, at the present time running from the date of service.
- Any health and safety improvement notice served by the local authority means that no section 21 notice can be served for 6 months.
Complaints about the property:
Any complaint in writing from the tenant, about the condition of a property, has to be responded to by the landlord within 14 days. The landlord must set out in his reply what they intend to do in response to the complaint and the estimated timeline any repair work.
If the landlord either fails to reply to the written complaint, gives an inadequate reply, or serves a section 21 notice, the tenant can complain to the local authority, who must inspect the property.
In the event of the local authority inspecting the property, it can either serve a remedial notice or carry out emergency remedial action.
At this point, the landlord’s rights to evict under section 21 will be held in limbo, since:
- No section 21 notice previously served will be valid.
- No further notice may be served for 6 months.
- However, the landlord can still serve a section 8 notice, but given the repair issues, the tenant may take the opportunity to try and counterclaim to prevent possession and claim damages.
Each floor of each property requires a functioning smoke alarm from 1st October under The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.
If a landlord took a deposit after 6th April 2007, but missed the deadline to get it registered by 23rd July 2015, then this is how the law stands.
If the landlord has not registered a deposit in a government-backed deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving the money, the landlord has to return the deposit money to the tenant immediately, as until the landlord does so they cannot serve a Section 21 Notice.
If the prescribed information relating to the deposit has not been given to the tenants and any other relevant persons within 30 days of the deposit being received, then the landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice. (‘relevant person’ presumably means guarantors, or anyone who helped pay for the deposit).
However, so long as the deposit money has been put into a scheme within 30 days, the ‘prescribed information’ relating to the deposit can be served at a later date, which then allows the landlord to serve a section 21 notice.
Do not expect the deposit scheme to provide the ‘prescribed information’ to the tenants, whatever the scheme suggests it might do. It is the landlord’s explicit responsibility to make sure all relevant persons receive the prescribed information. If in any doubt whatsoever, serve the documents yourself, keeping good evidence of having done so.
Also, check with the scheme what documents constitute the prescribed information. The website of one deposit scheme is far from clear what documents to use. If you are not clear, ring the scheme.
Notwithstanding these difficulties over section 21 notices, any deadlines for compliance with the rules that are missed mean that the landlord will be liable to the tenant for between one and three times the amount of the deposit, should the tenant bring a claim, or a counterclaim.
For advice about the new changes or any other tenancy queries,
please contact us on 01159 647740.
(Fixed fees are available)
Please note that all views, comments or opinions expressed are for information only and do not constitute and should not be interpreted as being comprehensive or as giving legal advice. No one should seek to rely or act upon, or refrain from acting upon, the views, comments or opinions expressed herein without first obtaining specialist, professional or independent advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Curtis Parkinson cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies.