The Deregulation Act 2015 contains the largest change to the private rental sector since the introduction of the tenancy deposit protection regime in 2007.
As with the rules on tenancy deposits, the possibility for complications for landlords and agents if not properly informed is high, and the consequences potentially severe.
Below is our guide for landlords to help avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls from the new legislation.
New Tenancies starting after 1st October 2015
First, landlords must not panic. The new legislation only affects assured shorthold tenancies commencing after the 1st October 2015 – therefore any tenancies commencing before this date are dealt with in the time honoured fashion.
For new tenancies there are some significant changes in the rules including:
- You must provide the tenant with an EPC, a gas safety certificate and the governments new ‘How to rent checklist’;
- There must be a working smoke alarm on each floor;
- There is a new form of section 21 notice that must be used;
- A section 21 notice can only be served after 4 months of the tenancy commencing;
- A section 21 notice is only valid for 6 months;
The single biggest change relates to properties with disrepair and what the legislation regards as ‘Retaliatory Evictions’ – where the landlord evicts the tenant rather than fixing the problem. For all new tenancies where the landlord receives a complaint in writing from the tenant about the condition of a property, this has to be responded to within 14 days. The landlord has to set out in his reply what he intends to do and the timeline for doing the repair work.
However, if the landlord then either fails to reply to the written complaint or gives an inadequate reply, or serves a section 21 notice then the tenant can complain to the local authority who must inspect the property. If the local authority inspects the property it can takes certain action then the landlord’s rights to evict under section 21 suspended and no action can be taken as:
- No section 21 notice previously served will be valid
- No further notice may be served for 6 months
However, the landlord can still serve a section 8 notice, but given the repair issues, the tenant may take the opportunity to try and counterclaim to prevent possession and claim damages.
The law on tenancy deposits taken before April 2007 has been clarified and landlords who either protected late or returned the money or ended the tenancy (as long as the step taken was before 23rd July 2015) can now not be ordered to pay damages. This essentially reverses the decision in Superstrike Ltd and Rodrigues .
Any deposit taken after April 2007 and not protected within 30 days will still give rise to a claim for damages (between 1 -3 times the value) and the landlord will be prevented from serving a section 21 notice. You should contact one of our solicitors to discuss your options if you think you are in this situation as steps can be taken to lessen your exposure and, partially, rectify the position.
If you have any queries or concerns then please contact the head of our Housing team Jonathan Leach on 01254 350126.