October 1st deadline for Section 21 changes to Assured Shorthold Tenancies
UK landlords have just over a week to address important changes that will alter tenants' protection from eviction under Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST). From 1 October 2015 important changes come into effect and landlords therefore need to ensure they’re prepared for this new government legislation or face difficulties evicting tenants in the future.
“Currently, a Section 21 notice is the most common way for a landlord to evict a tenant. Although they must give the tenant two months' notice, they don't have to give a reason for ending the tenancy,” comments, Stephen Poyner, Commercial Partner, FDR Law.
“However from the start of October, the implementation of the Deregulation Act 2015 (DA 2015) will give more rights to tenants regarding improvement works required to rental properties, reasons for ending a tenancy and provision of Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates.”
The new Act now means that if a tenant serves a written complaint on a landlord, the landlord must respond within 14 days specifying their proposed action. If they fail to provide an adequate written response within this time the tenant can complain to the local authority who may serve an Improvement Notice or carry out emergency remedial action themselves. If this happens, the landlord will not be able to serve a Section 21 notice until the works are carried out and signed off.”
Along with tenancy deposit details, the new legislation also requires landlords to prove that they have given Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), Gas Safety Certificates and the Government handbook, ’How To Rent’, to their tenants.
FDR Law outlines the changes and fine print for landlords to ensure they are not caught out:
- While the government has written a booklet called 'How to rent: the checklist for renting in England' which is available free of charge to landlords via the GOV.UK website, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to download the guide and distribute it to tenants.
- Landlords also need to give tenants a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property. This costs about £30 and gives a property an energy efficiency rating and is valid for 10 years.
- Landlords must hire an engineer listed on the Gas Safe register to carry out a safety inspection of every gas appliance or flue. A record of the inspection must be given to the tenant before they move in or within 28 days of the check being completed if the tenants are already living in the property.
- If landlords or agents cannot prove that they have supplied this paperwork to tenants, they will not be able to use the ‘no fault’ Section 21 procedure. Landlords are therefore being advised to ask tenants to sign and say they have received these documents – so they don’t deny it later on in the tenancy if there’s a problem.
- Although the new section 21 form of notice must be applied on tenancies in England that start on or after 1st October, it can also be used for tenancies that started before that date. However, many of the new pre-conditions will not apply to existing tenancies. So landlords need to make sure they do their homework!
- There are various circumstances in which a tenant will not be assisted by the new provisions. These include where the tenant is in breach of the duty to use the premises in a tenant-like manner; the property is genuinely on the market for sale; the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing; or the property was charged before the grant of the tenancy and the mortgagee wishes to exercise its power of sale and requires vacant possession.
- The DA 2015 will also introduce an obligation on landlords to provide information about the respective rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant under the AST. Failure to do this will mean the landlords will be prevented from giving a Section 21 notice.