Deregulation Act 2015 part 3: Section 21 notices and new changes to retaliation evictions

Rachel Garton, 22nd April, 2015

Rachel Garton takes a closer look at some of the housing-related changes being brought in by the Deregulation Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on 26th March 2015. This week, she discusses the changes relating to prevention of retaliatory eviction and the health & safety and the condition of the premises that will affect Assured Shorthold landlords and tenants.

Retaliatory evictions, health & safety and condition of the premises

The Deregulation Act will impose new conditions that ensure the health and safety of tenants within AST properties before a valid Section 21 Notice can be served. This is to prevent so-called retaliatory or revenge evictions.

Under these proposals a valid Section 21 Notice can’t be served if:

  1. The tenant has made a written complaint to the landlord regarding the condition of the property before service of a section 21 regarding the condition of the property.
  2. The landlord has not provided an adequate written response within 14 days.
  3. The tenant has complained to the local authority which has served an Improvement Notice or Emergency Remedial Notice.

If the landlord serves a Section 21 Notice between steps 2 and 3, that Notice will be invalid if the local authority does serve an Improvement Notice.

The above will not apply if the condition of the dwelling-house is caused by breaches by the tenant of their obligations.

These changes are likely to be introduced in October 2015.

What this means for landlords

If a tenant makes a written complaint about the condition of the property, the landlord will not be able to give notice to vacate and recover possession of the premises as a direct response to the complaint.

The landlord must give an adequate response to the complaint in writing within 14 days. Plus include details of how the landlord proposes to deal with the issue, and a timescale for the work to be carried out.The Act sets out what an adequate response will have to include.

If the landlord has been served with an Improvement Notice by a local authority, the landlord will not be able to serve a Section 21 Notice for six months.

Landlords will need to keep up to date with what’s required of them. They should also review the arrangements they have in place for tenants to notify repairs and issues, and make sure that tenants are provided with up to date contact details for reporting complaints. The proposed changes will introduce extra time constraints to the Section 21 process.

What this means for tenants

From a tenant’s point of view, the proposed changes should give some extra protection and clarity of their rights but to take advantage of those rights they will have to ensure that they properly report any complaints about the condition of the property in writing.

Other changes introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015

Section 21 Notice A new prescribed form Section 21 Notice is expected from July 2015. Plus the removal of the need for a landlord to specify the last day of a period of the tenancy, which they currently have to do on a Section 21(4)(a) Notice.

Under Section 36 of the Act, from 1st October 2015, landlords will no longer be able to serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of the start of the tenancy. So those landlords whose practice it is to automatically serve a Section 21 at the start of the tenancy will no longer be able to do so.

The thinking behind this change is to ensure that tenants in real terms always get at least two months’ notice under Section 21. It’s likely to lead to more landlords limiting service of Section 21 Notices to when they’re actually seeking to recover possession.

Section 21 Notices currently last indefinitely. Under the proposals expected from October 2015, a Section 21 Notice will only be valid for six months. If legal proceedings haven’t started within the six months, the landlord will have to serve a new Section 21 Notice. Then wait a further two months and then issue legal proceedings.

Section 38 - 40 Section 38 of the Act will introduce more restrictions on Section 21 Notices. For example, it's likely that no valid Section 21 Notice will be able to be served while there's no EPC or gas certificate in place for the property. Secondary legislation will be made in connection with this section.

Section 39 of the Act is also expected to introduce a new required form of information to be given to AST tenants by their landlords, setting out the rights and responsibilities of each.

Section 40 of the Act will introduce a statutory requirement for landlords to repay rent to AST tenants pro-rata, where it has been paid in advance for a rental period, and where the tenant ceases to be in occupation for the whole of that period.

In most cases, existing tenancies and notices issued before the date the changes come into force will not be affected. But there will be some transitional arrangements. If you're in doubt, please get in touch with us to discuss.

Need advice? We can help you

Please call Rachel Garton on 01482 324252.

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