There have been some recent changes in the law that landlords need to know about. These were contained in the 2015 De-regulation Act. This was a wide piece of legislation dealing with regulations in several unconnected areas, from poisons and explosives to road closures for motor racing, but it also include several items on housing and residential tenancies.
Some of the changes are fairly minor but you are opening yourself up to significant problems if you don’t get things right. And please remember that we can only ever give brief summaries on the blog, not full statements of the law. These are some of the main points …
- Requirement to show EPCs to prospective tenants: There is a new requirement to show potential tenants an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) together with a Gas Safety Certificate before the tenancy agreement is signed. This is something that might easily be forgotten about. Realistically, although EPCs have been a legal requirement for some years, most tenants simply aren’t interested in them and are unlikely to pay them much attention when making a decision about a new home. So a landlord could easily let let EPCs slip his or her mind. But if a landlord can’t prove that they have provided an EPC or a Gas Safety Certificate correctly, they can’t serve a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy. In other words – if you don’t get your paper work right, you can’t have your property back and are stuck with a tenant you might not want.
- Section 21 Notices: These are the notices landlords must give tenants if they want the property back. Although its not good practice, some landlords give them to tenants when the tenancy is signed so that’s already in place if they want to regain the property when the agreement expires. From this October though, you can no longer serve a section 21 notice until you are 4 months into a tenancy and any notice you do serve is only valid for 6 months before it expires. Again, if you get this wrong, you could get stuck (even if only for a fairly short period) with a tenant you don’t want. You should also be aware that the actual legal forms that are used for serving section 21 notices have been changed and again, you should make sure you get your paper work right when taking any action.
- Tenancy deposits: If you took a deposit from a tenant before the original rules on deposit protection came into effect and that tenancy has carried on, you must make sure the deposit is protected in an approved scheme. Although there aren’t that many private tenancies that are old enough to fall into this category, they do exist. If you have one, the deadline for you to comply is the 23rd June 2015 so act now.
- Retaliatory evictions: There will be restrictions on a landlord’s ability to end a tenancy if the tenant has complained about repair issues and the council has served a notice on the landlord such as a Hazard Awareness Notice or an Improvement Notice. In that situation, the landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice. If you do receive any sort of complaint from a tenant about repairs, do be aware of the dangers of mishandling it. Most Sandwell landlords keep their properties at a good standard and take their responsibilities about repairs and the condition of the property seriously, but for the minority who don’t, the intention behind the law is to make it impossible for a bad landlord to just kick a tenant out rather than dealing with legitimate repair issues. Good landlords need to be careful though. We know that bad tenants (again, thankfully only a very small minority) can sometimes exaggerate repair issues, or be obstructive in getting them sorted out as a way to harass the landlord! If you do encounter this sort of problem, make sure you do things by the book and keep proper records of all your actions and contact with the tenant.
Just to stress again, this article is a very brief summary only. A quick google will take you to the sites of various landlord trade organisations, where you can find much more detail. You can also find information about most landlord issues on gov.uk