The Government has made many changes over the last few years in an effort to try to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords. Many residential landlords will take the view that these changes provide far too much protection to tenants and go so far as to provide an easy way for tenants to avoid paying rent and remain in occupation. Although it is not covered in this article landlords should also be aware of the potential fine it may face if it fails to check the immigration status of its tenants.
A Brief Summary of the Recent Changes
In particular there has been the relatively recent requirement for a landlord to register the tenant’s deposit. In addition the landlord must within a short time frame confirm in writing certain details about where the deposit is being held. A failure by a landlord to take these steps may have very serious consequences.
A landlord may be required to pay a fine of up to three times the deposit and is unable to serve a Section 21 Notice bringing the tenancy to an end. One possible way to get around the restriction on serving a S21 Notice is for the landlord to return the deposit to the tenant prior to serving the notice. A difficulty arises where the deposit is held in a Tenant’s Deposit Scheme and the scheme requires the tenant’s consent to release the deposit. Often the tenant will refuse to allow the release of the deposit where it knows that it would then be served with a Section 21 Notice bringing its tenancy to an end.
The case of Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues at the end of last year created further confusion. It required at the end of a fixed term tenancy, where a tenant remained in occupation and the tenancy converted to a periodic tenancy that a landlord had to re-protect the deposit and re-serve the prescribed information.
Landlords can now breathe a small sigh of relief as the Deregulation Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”) has clarified matters slightly.
Further changes are coming into effect under the 2015 Act. These are as follows:
For all tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015 (although from 1 October 2018 this will apply to all tenancies regardless of their commencement)
*It is not clear from the legislation whether the requirement to provide the ‘How to Rent’ booklet will apply from 1 October 2018 to tenancies granted before 1 October 2015. It is therefore advisable to provide tenants with this booklet prior to 1 October 2018.
Applicable to all ASTs regardless of when it was entered into
Restrictions on Serving a S21 Notice
Of biggest concern to a landlord is the restriction that a landlord may not serve a Section 21 Notice where prior to the service of a Section 21 Notice a tenant has made a complaint in writing regarding the condition of the property. A landlord will be prevented from serving a valid s.21 notice in the following circumstances:
The reference to an adequate response by the landlord requires the landlord to respond in writing and provide a description of the action the landlord proposes to take to address the complaint. This must set out a reasonable timescale within which the action will be taken. The difficulty faced by landlords here is that if a tenant wishes to remain in a property and suspects that the landlord may take steps to bring the tenancy to an end all it needs to do is put the landlord on notice of a potential complaint and make the necessary referral within the time specified to the local housing authority. No doubt the local housing authority will have a considerable number of complaints to deal with and its response times will not be quick. This will serve to delay matters for a significant period of time where the landlord is prevented from bringing the tenancy to an end.
The Requirement for Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
In addition to the above there is a proposal which may come into force in early October 2015 which will require landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and Carbon Monoxide Alarms in high risk areas such as where there is a solid fuel heating system. Please see our note on this for more information.
To find out more please contact – Karen Bright 02076314141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.