On 1st October 2015, The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 and related sections of the Deregulation Act 2015 come into force, bringing with them a number of key changes which, if not complied with, could leave landlords and agents unable to recover possession of their property.
There appears to have been a lot of confusion around the new rules. So, what are the key changes and how can landlords, and indeed their agents, ensure they are on the right track?
Firstly it is important to remember that the new rules only apply to assured shorthold tenancies granted on or after 1st October 2015. After this time, landlords will need to comply with three requirements at the start of a new tenancy. They must supply tenants with;
1. An Energy Performance Certificate;
2. A Gas Safety Certificate; and
3. The Government booklet, “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England”, which you can downloaded here:
This is of course in addition to the already existing obligation to protect tenancy deposits in an approved scheme and serve the correlating Prescribed Information on the tenants.
Ensure that you keep copies of all documents supplied as you may need these to prove service of them on the tenant further down the line. Even better, ask the tenant to confirm receipt of the documents in writing.
In regards to the Section 21 Notice itself, the requirements have in some ways been loosened, in that the Notice no longer has to specifically end on the last day of a period of the tenancy to be valid. This will be a welcome change to those who have fallen foul of the sometimes tricky requirement in the past.
However, the new Regulations introduce a number of additional obligations for landlords to comply with before they can serve a valid Section 21 Notice.
If the landlord is required to hold a licence for the property, for example as required throughout Liverpool and in certain areas of the Wirral, the failure to have a valid licence in place may render the Section 21 Notice invalid.
A further change is that landlords and letting agents will no longer be permitted to serve a Section 21 Notice at the commencement of a new tenancy agreement. Indeed, this has been common practice amongst many industry professionals for a number of years. Under the new Regulations, a Section 21 Notice will not be valid if served within the first 4 months of the tenant’s occupation.
Also, tenants will be able to argue that a Section 21 Notice is a ‘retaliation notice’, which if successfully established by tenants will also render the Section 21 Notice void.
Landlords should provide an “adequate response” to any written complaint about the condition of the property within 14 days. The key aim of this provision is to prevent rogue landlords from serving notice on tenants as an easy alternative to having to incur the costs and time of carrying out improvements to the property.
There are some circumstances under which the provisions will not apply. For example, if the property is on the market for sale, or if the tenant is in breach of their agreement, but this will depend on nature of the breach.
The changes will undoubtedly lead to an increase in landlord and tenant litigation regarding the validity of a Section 21 Notice. To avoid such disputes, landlords must ensure compliance with the above requirements and respond adequately to any written complaint from the tenants about the condition of the property. Unfortunately it is yet to be examined as to what an “adequate” response will consist of and indeed, each case will understandably turn on its own facts.