Landlord update – changes to the Deregulation Act 2015
The changes mainly affect assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) that have started on or after 1 October 2015, but some issues, for example, The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, apply equally. All floors of a let property must have a functioning smoke alarm fitted at all times.
For those ASTs entered into before October 2015, as long as the rules on deposits have been complied with, landlords can still serve a Section 21 notice at any time during the tenancy and there is no change to the form of the Section 21 notices you use, nor is there any time limit on the notice served (unless any changes are agreed between you and your tenant). This will remain the position for pre-existing (before October 2015) ASTs until October 2018, when the changes will apply to all ASTs.
What are the differences for ASTs starting from October 2015?
Landlords now need to remember to provide the tenant with a gas appliance safety certificate and an energy performance certificate. You can find a useful government checklist called ‘How to rent: The checklist for renting in England’; download a copy here.
In relation to serving Section 21 notices, landlords can now only serve a Section 21 notice after four months of the first tenancy and use the new ‘prescribed form’. Such notices can only be relied upon for the purposes of possession proceedings for six months after notice expires. However, Section 35 of the Act does remove the requirement for the date of the expiry of a Section 21 notice to be the last day of a period of the tenancy, making it more straight forward.
We've previously mentioned problems with regards to complying with Section 214 of the Housing Act 2006 and the rules on deposits. In addition, if any health and safety improvement notice has been served by the local authority, a Section 21 notice cannot be served for six months.
Further, landlords now must respond to any complaint received in writing from their tenant about the condition of the property within 14 days, setting out what intends to be done and the timeline within which it will be done. If the landlord fails to reply or provides an inadequate response, the tenant can complain to the local authority who can serve a remedial notice and in emergency cases, carry out remedial action and charge the landlord.
A landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice in such circumstances. The landlord can still serve a Section 8 notice if it has grounds to do so but this could be met with a defence and counterclaim in view of the repair issues.