Here is a detailed update on the new landlord and tenant provisions that came into force on 1st October 2015 as a result of changes brought about by the Deregulation Act (2015).

Sections 33 to 41 of the Act principally provide that:-

  1. A landlord cannot serve a section 21  Notice ending an Assured Shorthold Tenancy  (AST), where the tenant has made a written complaint about the condition of the premises or the common parts of the building and the landlord has not responded or given an adequate response .
  2. The Section 25 Notice does not need to specify the last day of a period of the tenancy as the date when the tenancy comes to an end.
  3. A Section 21 Notice cannot be served in the first four months of the AST.
  4. Orders for possession must be started within six months from the date when the Section 21 Notice was given, or if a Notice was given within the fixed term of an AST, four months from the date specified in the Notice. A new Notice will have to be served if the possession proceedings are not started within these time limits.
  5. A new Section 21 Notice is required for all ASTs signed after 1st October 2015.
  6. No Section 21 Notice can be served unless the landlord has provided the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate and Gas Safety Certificate.
  7. The landlord cannot serve a Section 21 Notice unless it has served prescribed information. To satisfy this requirement, the landlord must give the tenants a copy of the DCLG booklet on “How to Rent”.
  8. If, as a result of service of the Section 21 Notice the tenancy is brought to an end  before the period of the tenancy and rent has been paid in advance for that period and the tenant was not in occupation during that period, then the tenant is entitled to a repayment of rent in accordance with the statutory formula.

These changes will catch out the unprepared landlord and will delay getting possession of the property.

It is best practice to provide the prescribed information, EPC and gas certificate at the start of an AST to make sure that these requirements have been satisfied. The practice of serving a Section 21 Notice on the first day of the tenancy must be stopped, as any Notice served within the first four months of the tenancy will be invalid. Landlords need to be aware of the earliest date they can serve a Section 21 Notice if they want to end the tenancy as soon as the contractual period ends.

Landlords also need to be proactive in issuing possession proceedings if the tenant does not vacate by the date set out in the Notice. If the landlord has not issued proceedings within six months of the date of Notice given (or four months where Notice is served during the fixed term), they will lose the right to do so and a fresh Notice will have to be served. This creates delay and could harm the landlord’s interest if rent is paid during this delayed period.

Landlords should take legal advice to determine whether the Notice that has been served is effective and when the time limits expire, as an invalid Notice triggers new time limits for service of possession proceedings.