1st October 2015 saw the introduction of yet more legislation in the guise of sections 33 to 41 of the Deregulation Act 2015 (“DA 2015”) much of which adds further complication to the lettings process for private landlords wishing to let their residential dwellings on assured shorthold tenancies.
The main thrust of the legislation concerns the form of section 21 notices and the circumstances in which they can be served by landlords to obtain possession of their properties.
The main changes can be summarised as follows:-
- There is a new prescribed form of section 21 notice referred to as “Form 6A”;
- The section 21 notice now has a “use by” date. Possession proceedings will therefore have to be commenced within 6 months of the date the section 21 notice is given, otherwise a frech notice will have to be served. Practically speaking, on the basis that the section 21 notice must give not less than two months’ notice to the tenant, this means that any accelerated possession claim will have to be commenced within 4 months of the notice expiring;
- The section 21 notice cannot be served during the first four months of the tenancy. This means that landlords and letting agents will no longer be able to carry on the common practice of serving a section 21 notice at the start of the tenancy;
- “Retaliatory” evictions will no longer be permitted. In other words if the tenant makes a complaint about the condition of the property and the landlord has either not responded or given an inadequate response to that complaint, he/she will be precluded from serving a valid section 21 notice as a means of obtaining possession of the property;
- Landlords will not be able to serve a section 21 notice if they have not served an up to date version of the government issued “How to Rent” guidance booklet at the commencement of the tenancy;
- Landlords will also be precluded from serving a section 21 notice if they have failed to provide their tenants with valid gas safety and energy performance certificates;
- If the tenant vacates the property during a period for which an advance payment of rent has been made, he/she will be entitled to a refund of a proportion of the rent which relates to the period after the tenancy has ended.
These changes are over and above the restrictions relating to service of section 21 notices which have already been imposed by the Housing Act 2004 where a landlord has failed to properly protect a tenancy deposit or serve prescribed information in relation to the relevant tenancy deposit scheme.
The good news is that the changes will not apply to any fixed term tenancies granted before 1 October 2015 even if they become periodic after 1 October 2015. They do however apply to any fixed term assured shorthold tenancy granted on or after 1 October 2015. They will also apply to all tenancies, no matter when they were granted, from 1 October 2018.