Essential Section 21 changes kick off today…
From today, all landlords and letting agents must legally comply with important changes to the rules on serving a notice to quit under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, commonly known as a Section 21 Notice. Courtesy of The Deregulation Act, this will allow tenants to have lived in their new home for a minimum of four months, before they can be asked to leave.
The changes are designed to stop landlords serving a Section 21 Notice as soon as a tenant moves in, and apply to tenancies entered into on or after today, October 1st 2015. As before, the notice can’t expire in any event before the end of any fixed term.
Other main changes to be aware of are:
• 6 months validity
A Section 21 Notice will only be valid for six months from the date it was given. This means that if the tenant doesn’t leave, possession proceedings must be commenced within six months of the service of the Section 21 Notice. Different rules apply where the notice period set out in the tenancy agreement is more than two months.
• How A Section 21 Notice will be valid
A Section 21 Notice will no longer be invalid if the date of possession given on it is not the last day of a tenancy period. This has traditionally been one of the main reasons that a Section 21 Notice fails. As long as a full two months’ notice is given, then unless another unconnected error is made, the Section 21 Notice will be valid.
• When landlords will not be able to serve a Section 21 Notice
Landlords will be unable to serve a Section 21 Notice in circumstances where it is in breach of its legal obligations to a tenant. This includes obligations as to the condition of the property, the health and safety of the occupants and failure to provide an Energy Performance Certificate or a valid gas certificate for the property. This also applies to if a tenant has raised a complaint to the landlord or agent in writing about the condition of the property.
• Rent refunds
When a Section 21 Notice is served, the landlord must repay all rent that has been paid by the tenant for any period where they no longer live in the property.
This has implications where a tenant decides to leave when they receive the Section 21 Notice rather than when the notice expires. Where a tenant pays a full month’s rent but then is required by the Section 21 Notice to vacate or voluntarily vacates mid-way through the month, the tenant is entitled to be reimbursed the overpayment of rent for that period.
• No deposit protection = invalid Section 21 Notice
As part of the industry’s bid to protect deposits, a Section 21 Notice cannot be served if any deposit has not been protected or returned to the tenant.
Joseph Hall, Head of Business Development, Lettings, welcomes the changes: ”These include the use of the new prescribed Section 21 notice which combines fixed term and periodic, a provision stating that a Section 21 notice can no longer be served in the first four months of a tenancy, and a new rule stating that a Section 21 notice will now have a six month lifespan.
Despite recognising that the changes are in response to the need for best practice across an enlarged private rental sector, Joseph says he would have liked more government funding spent on educating landlords about the changes, all of which have been introduced in a relatively short timeframe. We would ask that if any landlords have questions they contact us for advice.”