ASTs and the 90 day Countdown
The main changes to the tenancy deposit rules take effect immediately to remedy the notorious Superstrike case and clarify the requirements for prescribed information. In short, a landlord who took a deposit before 6 April 2007 and whose tenancy later became periodic (i.e. carried on after its initial term), now has a 90 day period of grace from 26 March to register that deposit with a deposit scheme and serve the prescribed information. That 90 day countdown has already started, meaning the date to be aware of is 23 June 2015. If you have an unprotected deposit do not lose this chance… it may be your last!
Equally welcome is the clarification on tenancies becoming periodic and whether deposits should be re-registered at that point. For tenancies created after 6 April 2007 and where the deposit has been protected from the start, the landlord will not be required to re-register or re-serve the prescribed information upon that tenancy becoming periodic.
Section 21 Notices
Although the changes that will affect the service of Section 21 notices are not yet in force, it is still worth mentioning them now.
A new format Section 21 notice will apply from 1 July 2015. Any tenancy signed after that date will need to use the new format, however those created before (whether in their initial term or tenancies which became periodic) may continue to use the old format. Having said that, there will be no reason why landlords may not standardise their procedures after 1 July 2015 to use the new format upon termination of any AST nearing its end. The new format notice will become mandatory from 1 June 2018.
In a change that is bound to trap the unwary, a new measure will prevent landlords from serving a Section 21 notice in the first four months of a tenancy. This change takes effect on 1 October 2015 but will only apply to tenancies created after that date. This is an important one as it will affect landlords and agents who previously sent their notices routinely at the commencement of the tenancy.
Care will need to be taken on timing of each notice, particularly where the tenancy is only for an initial period of 6 months.