Ruhul Ameen, a partner in the civil litigation department at local solicitors Wiseman Lee, takes a look at the Deregulation Act 2015, which may affect how landlords recover possessions of their property.
Most landlords will be broadly familiar with the process for terminating Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST’s) and the two-month notice must be given that must be given under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, but there are a number of new restrictions that landlords need to understand.
The new rules apply to AST’s granted on or after 1 October 2015, the regulations specify certain steps a landlord must take before they can serve a section 21 notice. These are additional to the existing requirements regarding protection of tenants’ deposits and the obligation to obtain a licence if the property is an HMO or falls within a selective or additional licencing scheme.
A landlord can serve a section 21 notice to recover possessions only if they have fulfilled the prescribed legal requirements and provided prescribed information about the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant under the AST. Landlords must provide an energy performance certificate, but in addition must also supply a copy of the Department for Communities and Local Government leaflet ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’. Landlords must ensure that all three documents have been provided by the time the notice is served.
The Act introduces new limits on a landlord’s ability to serve a section 21 notice at the start of an AST. For new and renewal AST’s (as long as the parties and property remain the same), a landlord cannot serve notice within the period of four months beginning with the day on which the original tenancy began.
The most notable change coming out of the regulations is the introduction of a new prescribed form of section 21 notice. There was no previous prescribed form. When seeking possessions under section 2, ‘Form 6A – Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy’ must be used for all AST’s created on or after 1 October 2015. This form can also be used, but is not mandatory, for periodic tenancies that have come into being after this date and which were fixed-term AST’s created before 1 October 2015.
The new rules restrict the landlord from taking retaliatory action. It is now no longer possible for a landlord to serve a section 21 notice when a tenant has made a written complaint to the landlord about the condition of the premises and the landlord either has either not responded or not given an adequate response.
From October 1 2015 onwards, there are new time limits for issuing proceedings for possessions in England. In most cases, proceedings to obtain an order for possession must start within six months beginning with the date on which the notice was given. Where the law requires a longer period of notice (e.g. where rent is payable annually), proceedings must start within four months of the date specified in the notice.
Landlords ned to make sure they are familiar with the new time limits and also the new steps required before serving a section 21 notice. They will not only need to serve the various documents and notices but they will need to obtain evidence that they have done so.
This article was originally published in the Wanstead Village Directory.