Tenant friendly changes to the procedure for serving notices under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988

Summary

In short, the new procedures are tenant friendly and place further restrictions on when a landlord can serve and enforce a section 21 notice in relation to residential properties let on assured shorthold tenancies (“ASTs”).

Landlords need to take more care when serving a section 21 notice to ensure that the correct form is used, the notice is served within the required time limits and that the landlord has provided the prescribed information to the tenant as required under the Act.

When do the changes apply?

The changes to the Housing Act 1988 (the “Act”) section 21 notice procedure, introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015, came into force on 1 October 2015. The changes only apply to assured shorthold tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015.

From the 1 October 2018, the new rules will apply to any AST irrespective of when it was created.

Key points to note

The key changes to the section 21 notice procedure are as follows:

  • There is now a prescribed form of section 21 notice, known as Form 6A, which must be used to serve a section 21 notice.
  • Landlords cannot serve a section 21 notice when a tenant has made a written complaint to the landlord about the condition of the premises or the common parts of the building and the landlord has not responded, or has given an inadequate response.
  • Landlords cannot serve a section 21 notice in the first four months of the AST.
  • Landlords cannot serve a section 21 notice unless they have provided the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate or a Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Landlords cannot serve a section 21 notice unless the tenant has been provided with prescribed information. To satisfy this requirement, landlords must give the tenant a copy of the document published by the Department for Communities and Local Government known as, ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England.’
  • Proceedings for a possession order under section 21 may not be begun:
    • after the end of the period of six months, beginning with the date on which the notice was given; or
    • where more than two months’ notice is required to be given by section 21(4)(b), after the end of the period of four months beginning with the dates specified in the notice.
  • Tenants now have the right to an apportionment of rent paid in advance for the period after the tenancy has come to an end following the section 21 notice.
  • Landlords no longer need to specify within the section 21 notice, the last day of a period of the tenancy as the date on which the tenancy comes to an end.

How these changes will affect you?

In light of the changes, landlords will need to take greater care when serving section 21 notices to ensure that they have taken the necessary steps to comply with the new requirements under the Act. Therefore, if landlords are uncertain about whether or not they have complied with the Act and whether they are entitled to serve a section 21 notice, legal advice should be sought.

Due to the fact that landlords cannot now serve a section 21 notice when a tenant has made a written complaint about the condition of the premises, it is important that landlords address any complaints about the premises quickly and efficiently and give a full response to such complaints. This will prevent delay in being able to serve a section 21 notice.

To assist with ensuring the prescribed information is provided to the tenant, landlords should provide the Energy Performance Certificate and Gas Certificate at the start of an AST to ensure that these requirements have been satisfied.

Landlords will need to be more proactive in issuing possession proceedings if a tenant does not vacate the premises by the date set out in the section 21 notice. If a landlord has not issued proceedings within the deadlines as set out above, it will have lost the right to do so based on that notice and a new notice will need to be served.