What is a Section 21 Notice?
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is a piece of legislation that allows landlords (private individuals) to regain possession of their property, without giving grounds. But it’s only enforceable once an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) – i.e. either a fixed-term or contractual periodic tenancy – has expired.
Landlords are legally required to serve tenants a written Section 21 Notice. This serving needs to provide a minimum of two months’ notice from the date it is served to the date the tenant is required to leave – these details need to be made clear for the tenant, otherwise the notice will be deemed invalid.
What are the latest changes to a Section 21 Notice?
The Deregulation Act 2015 (DA) was passed on 27 March 2015, resulting in changes that will soon come to affect landlords.
Currently, a Section 21 Notice is also deemed invalid if it’s served before the tenant’s deposit has been protected and the tenant has been given the correct documents that comply with deposit protection legislation. Following the DA, the AST and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 are enforcing updated regulations that will change the way in which landlords can serve a Section 21 Notice which, in turn, will potentially protect tenants from eviction in England. Landlords will need to adhere to the changes, otherwise be subjected to serious consequences.
For tenancies of properties starting on or after 1 October 2015, landlords will need to supply the following prescribed information (in addition to current information on protecting any deposit from them and the condition of the property in order to prevent ‘retaliatory evictions’):
1. A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC);
2. A copy of the gas certificate (provided the property has a gas supply);
3. A copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England’ document – an up-to-date hard copy version of the guide given at the start of tenancies is enough to satisfy the regulations. Alternatively, sending an e-mail copy is fine – provided that the tenant has given an e-mail address, either to the landlord or someone acting on behalf of them, at which to receive tenancy-related correspondence.
Landlords will also have to use the new Section 21 Notice form for all tenancies of properties in England. Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive at The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), advises landlords to make sure they have “a clear audit paper trail to evidence that these documents have been handed over/emailed.” She also recommends getting “tenants to sign that they have received them” for extra peace of mind.
How do the Section 21 Notice changes affect landlords?
As a landlord, here are the changes that you need to be aware of:
As of 1 July 2015:
• Failure to provide the above prescribed information will make a Section 21 eviction procedure invalid, leaving landlords not permitted to bring about an application for possession. So compliance is vital which includes ensuring that an EPC is given to every prospective tenant enquiring about a property as it forms a part of their decision process.
As of 1 October 2015:
• Landlords will no longer be permitted to serve tenants a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of an AST – a move to prevent a landlord’s ability to issue a Section 21 Notice at the beginning of the tenancy;
• In the case of periodic tenancies, there’ll be no need for landlords to serve a notice that ends on the last day of the tenancy;
• Landlords will be required to repay tenants any rent for a period of time when a Section 21 Notice has stopped a tenant from living in the property – prior to the end of a payment period.
It’s also important to be aware that from 1 June 2018, all ASTs are required to use the new style of notice regardless of when they started. But until 1 October 2018, landlords may choose whether or not to use the new Section 21 Notice form for ASTs that started before 1 October 2015. From 1 October 2015, tenants starting on a new tenancy might be able to prevent a Section 21 Notice being served if there is a legitimate complaint about the property.
At Kingsley Hamilton Estates, we provide you with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. For further information on how to remain compliant and to remove the stress of managing your tenancies, call 020 7078 0214 to talk to one of our experienced letting agents who will be happy to guide you through the process.