Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Tessa Shepperson says, “There are a lot of legal changes on their way, so I thought I would use this article which is a summary of new laws coming in the PRS so you are prepared for them.  Note by the way that most of these changes will just be in England as Wales is developing its own, different, housing law system.”

1. Changes to section 21

There are big changes coming to section 21:

Anti-retaliatory eviction measures.  These will restrict landlords’ ability to serve a valid section 21 notice if the tenants have complained about the condition of the property AND if the Local Authority have served an improvement or similar notice on the landlord.

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This measure should not affect landlords who respond promptly to tenants and who keep properties in good condition.  Local Authority EHOs  are mostly overworked and do not have enough staff to deal properly with their case load so are not going to want to waste resources on anything other than clear cases of bad practice.

A new section 21 notice.  I have seen a draft of this, but no doubt it will be amended before the final version is released.  This is really good news for landlords as most of the problems in the past with s21 evictions have been about the correct drafting of the notice.

More preconditions for serving a s21 notice.  At the moment these are compliance with the tenancy deposit rules and having a license for a licensable HMO.  Here are the new ones coming:

  • Installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • Serving on the tenant a gas safety certificate,
  • An energy performance certificate, and
  • A copy of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide

Time limits – you will not be able to serve a section 21 notice during the first four months of a tenancy and will not be able to issue proceedings based on a notice more than 6 months after it was served.

The new section 21 measures are due to come into force on 1 October 2015, but the pre-conditions and time limits will only (until 2018) apply to new tenancies created after that date.

2. New Health and Safety measures

These are the requirements to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms referred to above.

Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) notes on the requirement for Smoke alarms:

(During any period beginning on or after 1st October 2015 while the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence) the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation.

A living room will include a lounge dining room and kitchen as well as a bathroom or toilet. It also includes a hall or landing. This means that a smoke alarm must be provided in working order on each storey. Since the regulation relates to each storey in the premises this suggests that a separate alarm is not needed on a half landing as these would not be regarded as individually being a storey.

As regards individual flats located on one floor then there will have to be at least one alarm within the flat itself or alternatively are provided outside the flat on the same floor of the building, i.e. a communal alarm. Likewise, for flats comprising more than one storey there will need to be a smoke alarm on each floor.

It is the location of an alarm which sounds which is crucial; not the positioning of detectors.

The Regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required. Ideally it should be a hard wired alarm system. It can, however, be a single stand-alone alarm. It is recommended by the RLA to fit ten year long life non-tamper proof alarms, otherwise there is a problem of batteries being taken out and not being replaced.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Likewise, during any period beginning on or after 1st October 2015 when the premises are occupied under a tenancy or a licence a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided by the landlord in any room in premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

This applies to any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire. It will also extend to equipment such as a solid fuel Aga in the kitchen. This is already a requirement with new installations of solid fuel burning combustion appliances as under Building Regulations there is a requirement to install a carbon monoxide alarm. This is now extended to any existing appliances already in place before Building Regulations imposed this requirement or where building regulations are not observed.

Checks

The landlord is specifically required to carry out a check to ensure that smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms installed to comply with the Regulations are in proper working order on the day a tenancy begins where it is a new tenancy. A new tenancy is a tenancy granted on or after 1st October 2015.

For these purposes a new tenancy does not include a tenancy which was granted where the original agreement was entered into before 1st October 2015; nor does it include a periodic statutory tenancy which arises when a fixed term shorthold tenancy ends.

It does not apply to a tenancy which starts at the end of an earlier tenancy where the landlord and tenant are the same as under the earlier tenancy and the premises are the same (or substantially the same) as those under the earlier tenancy. Therefore this express requirement to check does not apply to the renewal of a tenancy for the same premises by the same landlord to the same tenant.

In the RLA’s view, landlords should not be under a false sense of security because of this provision. Their reading of the regulation is that there is an ongoing obligation to ensure that any smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm installed to meet these requirements is in working order. Alarms should therefore be checked periodically to see that they are working properly.

There is no reason why this responsibility should not be placed on the tenant but the landlord will then have to make sure that the tenant does actually carry out the checks. If challenged, a landlord could have to show that a proper system has been put in place to check alarms regularly.)

Note that local fire and rescue services have been provided with free alarms to hand out to landlords, so if you want this, have a word with your local service.

3. Right to Rent

The right to rent checks which came in with the Immigration Act 2014 have been trialled in the West Midlands over the past 6 months.

However these are almost certainly due to be rolled out nationwide as fast as the Government can manage it.  New measures are also being planned for a new immigration act which will involve harsher penalties for landlords who fail to carry out the checks, including imprisonment, and also the power to evict tenants without getting a court order first.

4. HMO Licensing

The government have indicated that they are going to revisit mandatory licensing and widen the definition so more properties will come within it.

So if you manage a property which is an HMO but not a licensable one – this may change in the not too distant future.

5. Penalties for Rogue Landlords

The government has indicated that it is determined to crack down on rogue landlords by introducing new penalties.  For more information see the article by Ben (who attended the government think tank meeting) here.

Conclusion

Thats a lot of change coming up!  So you need to make sure you keep yourself informed.

Anyone who can get to Ely on 1 October should consider coming along to our Easy Law Training legal update workshop with barrister Sam Madge-Wyld which you can read about >> here.

Tessa Shepperson

http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk

Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

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