Thousands of small-scale landlords and a good proportion of letting agents are still blissfully unaware of legislation changes which came in last year affecting a landlord’s ability to regain possession of their properties.

It’s been reported that from a survey of over 300 professional letting agents, 10% were not aware of the need to provide an “adequate response” to a tenant’s request for repairs. Given this degree of ignorance from the professionals, it’s certain that the proportion of self-managing small-scale landlords in the dark on these issues if far higher.

Judging by the difficulties landlords and agents have encountered with following the deposit protection rules, introduced in 2007, and the costs that still result, it can be anticipated that deposits were as naught compared to the new requirements.

Changes to the law on Section 21 and in particular how landlords deal with reported repair issues is now of crucial importance if section 21 claims for possession are to be successful. Careful pre-planning is now essential at the time of setting-up Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST).

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The Section 21 eviction process for ASTs in England and Wales is a very valuable concession for landlords, which not all jurisdictions give: it allows for no-fault (no reason required) eviction of tenants.

Because a minority of landlords have abused this concession, evicting tenants when they have made genuine repair requests, so-called “retaliatory” or “revenge” evictions, the law has been changed, which means landlords and their agents now have a further hurdle to jump to use Section 21, if repairs have been reported – see below.

In addition, other new legislation means that landlords and agents must fulfil some specific requirements if their s21 eviction is to be successful.  For any tenancy commencing on or after 1 October 2015:

  • Tenants must be issued with a valid EPC
  • Tenants must be issued with a current Gas Safety Certificate – if gas is present.
  • Tenants must be provided with the version of the government’s “How to Rent Guide”, current at the time of the commencement of the tenancy.
  • Service within 30 days* of the deposit being received, along with the scheme’s Statutory Notice and their information leaflet. The notice must refer to a clause in the tenancy agreement which explains the circumstance in which money can be deducted – usually damage, service charges and arrears of rent.

These documents must be provided at the time of the commencement of the tenancy, or in the case of the How to Rent Guide, at the very least, BEFORE a section 21 notice is served.

*Any deposit you take must be protected within 30 days (even one day late will mean you are subject to a fine and unable to use s21) and service of the above must be to anyone who provided the deposit direct to you – tenant, parent, guarantor etc)

It is important to be clear with your tenants how formal communications can be made. For example, sending documents (1 to 3) as attachments to emails is agreed.  Service of notices should always be done in person or posted through the address letter box and independently witnessed. In each case the tenancy agreement should state how communications can be made. You ALWAYS need documentary evidence – proof – that documents have been sent or served on tenants.

Section 21 Notices – For any AST starting on or after 1 October 2016, a new form of Section 21 Notice is required (Form 6a) and will not be valid if served during the first four months of an AST, and the notice will expire if court proceedings are not started within 6 months of service.

Reported Repair Issues

The idea behind the new legislation (Deregulation Act) on “retaliatory eviction” is that where a tenant reports (in writing) a repair issue, the landlord must respond – provide an “adequate response”- within 14 days. The repair request triggers a series of actions:

  1. An adequate response and repair has no impact on the ability to serve a valid s21 notice.
  2. An adequate response but no repair resolution may result in the tenant reporting the matter to the local authority environmental health department – see 4.
  3. No adequate response could also result in the tenant reporting the matter to the local authority environmental health department – see 4
  4. The local authority can either:
    • Inspect and find the issue does not constitute a Category 1 or 2 repair issue – no impact on s21.
    • The local authority has not yet decided on what to do.
    • The local authority issues a “relevant notice”, usually an improvement notice or enforcement order.

Read the full LandlordZONE® article here

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