Given all the legislation changes affecting landlords recently, it’s perhaps surprising that the government does not appear to be making more of an effort to communicate, to publicise these changes generally and widely to the landlord community.
Yes, they announce them on their websites, and the landlord associations and independent websites like us, LandlordZONE®, do their level best to get the information out, but when you consider the large number of people involved this is paltry and largely ineffective.
There are estimated to be between one and two million landlords in the UK (estimates vary widely) but whichever way you look at it the numbers are vast. So, if you recon that around 50 per cent of these landlords use letting agents, a proportion are professional or semi-professional, i.e. with perhaps 4 or more properties, HMOs, student lets etc; it still leaves thousands of small-scale landlords, with one to 3 properties, many of whom are amateurs letting their own home when they want to move for one reason or another. Many of these may live abroad, completely out of touch with UK law changes.
These laws, largely introduced to combat the rogues, will hit these landlords hard. As Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action said recently:
“…not enough landlords will know about these recent changes. We now have something like 1.6 million landlords in the UK and 78% of them own just one property. I would encourage the Government to put some funds towards educating landlords, rather than just leaving it to the responsibility of lettings agents/landlord associations.
“Only last week I presented to about 70 landlords and agents in Manchester. I’d say at least half of the room were unsure about the Deregulation Act, highlighting the need for greater publicity promoting these changes. As an example of the need to heavily promote any legislative changes, we still receive 5-10 calls a day from landlords who want to evict their tenants but have failed to protect their tenant’s deposit. Even worse, some have not even heard of the deposit scheme which came out in April 2007!”
All new residential AST tenancies created on or after the 1st of October 2015 are affected by the new rules brought in by the Deregulation Act, whereas existing tenancies and those that go periodic will not be affected until 1st October 2018.
This has implications for both landlords and letting agents. Most letting agents like to renew tenancies as opposed to allowing them to become periodic, that way they earn another fee. If this is the case all new signed tenancies will need to meet the new regulations and therefore, whichever way it goes, agents will be looking to landlords to pay more money, either through lack of fee income, or more work involved for the agent.
A statutory periodic tenancy arising after the 1st October 2015 is not deemed to be a new tenancy in this regard, but a replacement tenancy (where a new AST is signed) is a new tenancy. The changes have no effect on the Housing Act 1988 Section 8 Notice and the procedures for rent arrears.
Changes to S21 Notice Procedure
A number of changes to Section 21 possession claims are brought in after 1st October 2015 under the new rules in the Deregulation Act 2015. Any new Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in England starting on or after the 1st October 2015 will require the new Standardised Section 21 form and the landlord or agent MUST conform to the new requirements, the main ones being:
- Provide the tenant/s with a current copy of the 10 year Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the rental property, technically either when letting information is given or at the viewing whichever is sooner.
- Provide the tenant/s with a current copy of the annual Gas Safe Certificate for the rental property before the tenant enters the property.
- Provide the tenant with a current copy of the Government Booklet: How to rent: the checklist for renting in England This MUST be the latest available version at the time of letting and on a tenancy renewal.
- Protect any Tenancy Deposit taken, plus serve the statutory information (s213 notice) and get proof of service within 30 days.
You must be able to prove you have provided this information with some sort of documentary evidence in the event you need to apply for a possession order using s21.
For ASTs in Wales and existing tenancies which started before 1st of October 2015 and until 1st of October 2018 you should continue to use the old Section 21 notices – fixed term s21(1)(b) and periodic s21(4)(a).
You can use the new notice for older tenancies, but in this case you would need to make sure you have complied with all these new requirements.
Changes to Notice Periods:
- The new Section 21 notice cannot be served in the first 4 months of the original tenancy but it can be served at the start of a tenancy renewal.
- Once served the s21 lasts for a maximum of six months, during which time court action must be started, otherwise a new notice will need to be served.
- The new notice does not require an end date or end on the last day of a tenancy period. It is simply 2 months’ notice.
- The exception to this is where the tenancy is contracted for quarterly or longer periods, in which case this rent period would be the length of notice required.
- Where the tenancy is a contractual periodic one, possession claims will need to start within 4 months of expiry of the notice.
- For 6 month tenancies it will not be possible to end the tenancy at the end of the term, but most likely it will be a few days into the next rent period. Because of this anomaly the legislation says that landlords must repay the balance of any rent paid for that period, back to the tenant.
Evictions and Applying for a Possession Order
Having correctly served a Section 21 notice under the new rules and waited for the 2 months’ notice period to expire, you can then apply for a possession order using (1) The Accelerated Possession (Court form N5b) route with no court hearing, or the Standard Possession route (form N5) where a court hearing will be required, but in this latter case a money claim can be added. This is a three stage eviction process: (1) s21 notice served, (2) apply to the court for a possession order, (3) if necessary, and apply again to the court for a court bailiff eviction.
The Government has just announced, in the light of more recent changes and amendments to the new regulations and forms, updates to nine prescribed assured tenancy forms
The major change is the move to a prescribed form for section 21 notices which means that the forms are “prescribed” because the wording in them has been drafted to ensure that the person completing the form and the person receiving it fully understand what is being proposed and what they may do in response.
As many agents and landlords know to their cost, failure to serve the correct form and failure to have complied with all of the above prerequisites will invalidate court actions. This means the loss of a court fee, plus another long wait for new notice periods to elapse, and another court process to complete.
As far as serving notices is concerned, government advice states:
“You may not alter the wording in these forms unless a form says you may do so. If you alter the wording, the form may be invalidated. You must also comply with any notice periods set out in the form.”
You can find the new prescribed forms here: www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms
See more about the new rules here: www.landlordzone.co.uk/information/new-section-21-rules
Documents available here: www.landlordzone.co.uk/documents