Sections 33 to 41 of the Deregulation Act 2015 (“DA 2015”) came into force on 1 October 2015. The provisions contain, amongst other things, restrictions as to how and when a notice served under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 can be served by landlords as a means of “ending” an assured shorthold tenancy of their properties, as well as changes to the form of the notice itself.
The new provisions include:
- The introduction of a new prescribed form of section 21 notice referred to as “Form 6A”;
- The introduction of a timescale within which a possession claim must be issued following service of a section 21 notice. Possession proceedings will now have to be commenced within 6 months of the date the section 21 notice is given, otherwise a fresh 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 removal of the need for landlords to specify an expiry date in a section 21 notice which is the last day of a period of the tenancy.
- Preventing landlords from serving a section 21 notice 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;
- The prevention of “retaliatory” evictions. 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;
- Preventing landlords from serving a section 21 notice if they have not served their tenants with prescribed information. This requirement will be satisfied by landlords providing their tenants with the Department for Communities and Local Government issued “How to Rent: The checklist for renting in England” guidance booklet at the commencement of their tenancies;
- Precluding landlords from serving a section 21 notice if they have failed to provide their tenants with valid gas safety and energy performance certificates;
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 changes only apply to Assured Shorthold Tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015 and will therefore not apply to any fixed term tenancies granted before that date even if they become periodic after 1 October 2015. They will also apply to all tenancies, no matter when they were granted, from 1 October 2018.