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Having received royal assent earlier this year, some important sections of the Deregulation Act 2015 came into force on 1 October. As well as including measures affecting apprenticeships, use of land and driving instructors, the Act includes some major amendments to s.21 of the Housing Act 1988.
S.21 is the part of the Housing Act 1988 which allows landlords to recover possession of a property on the expiry or termination of an assured shorthold tenancy and it is therefore fundamental that landlords understand the changes which will affect them.
Firstly, a s.21 notice now cannot be served within the first four months of a term. However, this does not apply where a ‘statutory periodic tenancy’ has arisen at the end of a term (so, if you have a 6 month fixed term which then rolls on into a monthly periodic tenancy after the 6 months, you can still serve a s. 21 notice immediately after the periodic tenancy has started). The new legislation also removes the requirement for a final date to be specified in the notice.
However, there are now new restrictions on the validity of any notice served – for starters, there is a time limit on obtaining possession. Any proceedings for possession must be made within 6 months of a notice being served, otherwise the s.21 notice is invalid and a new one will have to be issued.
Further, a notice can be invalid if certain requirements of the landlord are not met. Ironically, the Deregulation Act 2015 has come with a raft of new regulations. The main concern for housing associations will be the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015. In short, these regulations impose requirements on landlords relating to ‘the condition of dwelling-houses, the health and safety of occupiers and the energy performance of dwelling-houses’.
With regard to the latter, energy performance, there is now a requirement on landlords to provide an EPC to any prospective tenant at the point of enquiry (i.e. rather than when the tenancy starts). They are also required to have a current gas safety certificate – the absence of this or an EPC will render any s.21 notice invalid.
Landlords are now also required to provide the government’s ‘How to Rent’ booklet (which can be found here) on the granting of any assured shorthold tenancy – whilst housing associations are exempt from this, they would be wise to take note of it in relation to any market rental stock.
Fortunately, there is a now a new form of the s.21 notice which can be found here.
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