The government has been making available, to selected stakeholders, a draft of the standardised form of section 21 notice which the Deregulation Act 2015 will make compulsory from October.
The notice will probably be changed again before being finalised but there are some interesting points worth noting.
First, the standard notice is the same for both s21(1)(b) and s21(4)(a) situations. In practice this is much less of an issue for many landlords after the decisions of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in the case of Spencer v Taylor as relatively few landlords will now need to use s21(1)(b) notices.
Second the new notice gives some indication as to the additional documents that landlords are now going to be expected to supply to tenants before they will be allowed to serve an s21 notice. These will be an EPC, a landlord’s Gas Safety Certificate, and a copy of the government’s How to Rent guide. This will of course be in addition to the, well known, requirement to provide relevant tenancy deposit protection information. Landlords are of course obligated to provide an EPC and GSC already and it is an offence not to do so the only truly new item here is the How to Rent guide. However, some landlords will be frustrated at the need to provide a further 8 pages of material to tenants.
Third, the notice does not specify a date by which the tenant must leave. It simply requires the tenant to “leave the below address within two months from the date of this notice”. This is going to cause confusion to some tenants as it does not specify a date for them to go. It is also going to cause problems because it states that the tenant must leave “within two months”. This sits poorly with a fixed term tenancy as a landlord will not actually want a tenant to leave before the tenancy has ended. Finally, the wording is incorrect for some situations. Despite the changes to s21(4)(a) in the Deregulation Act (which removes the obligation for the notice to expire at the end of a period) there is still a requirement that an s21(4)(a) notice not give less notice than a notice to quit, that is one period of the tenancy. Therefore if rent is payable quarterly or six monthly then the tenant would need a quarter’s or six months, respectively, notice. The current form of wording fails to do this.
The notice will likely change again before being finalised but the pressure remains on for big change in the Autumn.