Judith Winward, TSP Dispute Resolution solicitor, discusses changes in legislation that residential landlords need to be aware of.

New legislation concerning information which residential landlords must have given to their tenants before they can serve a valid notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 came into force at the beginning of this month. This highlights the importance of landlords keeping up to date with the ever-changing landlord and tenant law.

A Section 21 notice is the “no fault” notice to be served by landlords when seeking to take back possession of their property at the end of the tenancy.

The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 require residential landlords to give to their tenants at the start of each fixed term tenancy after 1 October 2015 the following documents (in addition to information relating to deposits):

• Gas appliance safety certificate
• Energy performance certificate
• The government-produced document “How to rent: The checklist for renting in England.” This document can be downloaded from the publications page on the government website here.

The requirement to provide a gas appliance safety certificate and energy performance certificate is not new – what is new is that if the landlord fails to comply they will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice.

Additionally, the rules regarding service of a Section 21 notice have changed. In summary they are:

• No Section 21 notice can be served in the first four months of the tenancy
• There is a new prescribed form for Section 21 notice
• There is now a “use by” date for a Section 21 notice. The landlord has 6 months from the date of service and four months from the date of expiry of the notice to use it to start possession proceedings – failing which he must start again

For tenancies which began before 1 October 2015 the old rules regarding Section 21 notices remain the same, until October 2018 when the new rules will apply to all tenancies.

The Deregulation Act 2015, which has led to the new regulations, also introduces a new protection from retaliatory eviction for residential tenants. The aim is to protect tenants who complain about the poor state of their property. Any written tenant complaint about the condition of the property must be answered by the Landlord within 14 days. The Landlord must state, in writing, what they intend to do and the time frame in which the work will be done.

If the Landlord fails to reply, gives an inadequate response, or serves a Section 21 notice the tenant can complain to his local authority, which must inspect the property, following which it can serve a health and safety improvement notice on the landlord or carry out emergency repair work itself if the complaint is found justified.

Any Section 21 notice already served will then be invalid and the Landlord is not allowed to serve another for 6 months.

If you are a landlord and need help and advice in this area Judith, who is also a Notary Public can be contacted on 01206 217039 or by email at judith.winward@tsplegal.com