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1st October 2015, Landlords Beware!!

Article by Giles Inman on Sep 16, 2015 View in browser

1st October 2015, Landlords Beware!!

Important changes affecting landlords are coming into force on 1st October 2015 as a result of The Deregulation Act. The main changes are to the rules governing a notice to quit under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The changes come into force on October 1 and apply to tenancies entered into on or after that date.

The main changes to be aware of are:

•  It will no longer be possible to serve a Section 21 Notice until the tenant has lived in the property for a minimum of four months. This is to stop landlords serving a Section 21 Notice as soon as a tenant moves in. As before, the notice can’t expire in any event before the end of any fixed term.

•  A Section 21 Notice will only be valid for six months from the date it was given. This means that if the tenant doesn’t leave, possession proceedings must be commenced within six months of the service of the Section 21 Notice. Different rules apply where the notice period set out in the tenancy agreement is more than two months.

•  A Section 21 Notice will no longer be invalid if the date of possession given on it is not the last day of a tenancy period. This has traditionally been one of the main reasons that a Section 21 Notice fails. As long as a full two months’ notice is given, the Section 21 Notice will be valid.

•  Landlords will be unable to serve a Section 21 Notice if they breach any of the following legal obligations to a tenant.

•  Failure to provide an Energy Performance or valid gas certificate

•  Failure to properly register the tenant’s deposit and issue the prescribed information within the new legal time frame.

•  Failure to provide the tenant with the government booklet, ‘How to rent’, to tenants.

•  In addition, where a tenant has raised an issue to the landlord or agent in writing about the condition of the property and there has been a failure to action and resolve this complaint in a timely manner, the tenant will need to complain to the local authority. Until the local authority has decided whether to issue a Relevant Notice (e.g. improvement notice) on the landlord for works to be carried out then a Section 21 Notice cannot be relied upon. If a Relevant Notice is served by the local authority, a section 21 notice cannot be served for six months from the date of that notice. If the landlord/agent adequately responds within 14 days and the work is carried out this will have no impact on a Section 21 notice. The landlord will have a defence in circumstances where the tenant has failed to use the property in a tenant like manner or the disrepair is due to a breach of the tenants obligations under the tenancy agreement; where a mortgagee is seeking possession; or where the property is genuinely on the market for sale at the time the Section 21 notice is served.

•  When a Section 21 Notice is served, all rent that has been paid for any period where the tenant ceases to lives in the property must be repaid to the tenant. This has implications where a tenant who has paid their rent decides to leave when they receive the Section 21 Notice rather than when the notice expires. Where a tenant pays a full month’s rent but then is required by the Section 21 Notice to vacate or voluntarily vacates mid-way through the month, the tenant is entitled to be reimbursed the overpayment of rent for that period.

Parliament approve Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 in time for 1st Oct deadline

Last night Parliament approved the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

This now means that from 1 October 2015 all landlords in England will be required to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy.

Landlords also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms – such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed. Sanctions for not doing so include up to a £5,000 civil penalty.  Guidance on the regulations can be found here.