No landlord relishes having to evict a tenant. But knowing what you can and can't do is crucial should the need to use a section 21 notice arise.
If you aren't up to speed with the process of issuing a section 21 notice then now is the time. Changes coming into effect on Monday will affect the process landlords must adhere to when seeking to evict a tenant.
Fully understanding the changes is vital to avoid delays in landlords recovering possession of their properties.
The Deregulation Act 2015 saw new rules attached to section 21 notices on tenancies starting or being renewed on or after October 1 2015. Those rules will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies from Monday.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE TO SECTION 21 NOTICES?
The big change is that landlords or lettings agents must now complete a new form, called Form 6A, issued by the government.
Prior to Monday's changes, landlords would either serve a Section 21(1) or Section 21(4) depending on whether the tenant they wished to evict was within the fixed term of their tenancy or under a periodic agreement.
Now there will be just one form for both types of tenant, streamlining the process and limiting the chances of a landlord issuing an incorrect notice.
HAVE THE TIMEFRAMES CHANGED?
Yes, they have. The Deregulation Act 2015 states landlords are unable to issue a section 21 notice during the first four months of a tenancy, outlawing the practice of some landlords who would issue section 21 notices at the start of tenancy agreements.
Moreover, section 21 notices from Monday will carry an expiry date. If proceedings have not commenced within six months of the date of the section 21 was issued, that notice becomes invalid and a new section 21 notice would need to be served.
OKAY, WHAT OTHER CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE?
One of the biggest changes landlords had to digest was when the Deregulation Act 2015 came into force for tenancies beginning or being renewed for new fixed terms on or after October 1 2015.
Since that period, landlords wishing to implement a section 21 procedure must have:
* Provided their tenant with a copy of the property's most up-to-date gas safety certificate prior to the start of the tenancy agreement.
* Published the property's Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
* Clearly informed the tenant which tenancy deposit scheme their deposit is held in.
* In the case of a licensed property, provided each tenant with a copy of the licence.
* Shared the government's 'How To Rent' guide with all tenants.
The grey area in the above relates to the gas safety certificate and when this must be issued.
The wording in the Deregulation Act 2015 states landlords must ensure:
"...a copy of the last record made in respect of each appliance or flue is given to any new tenant of premises to which the record relates before that tenant occupies those premises."
The wording at the end of that clause would suggest that a landlord who supplies a copy of the gas safety certificate aftermoving-in day is not able to serve a valid section 21 notice.
A recent county court case would appear to back up that assumption, but clarification is clearly needed. As it is on whether the gas safety and EPC rules apply to pre-October 1 2015 tenancies that have not been renewed since that date.
In the meantime, and to be on the safe side, landlords starting or renewing assured shorthold tenancies after Monday should ensure they issue a copy of the gas safety certificate and EPC before the tenant moves in.
For further advice on section 21 notices and the changes coming into force, speak to your local Martin & Co branch.