The Deregulation Act 2015 and the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 will impose restrictions on a landlord’s ability to give a section 21 notice to end a tenancy with effect from 1 October 2015.
It is important to make the point that (with one exception referred to below) the new rules will only apply to new assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) entered into on or after 1st October 2015. In the case of a statutory periodic tenancy arising on the expiry of a fixed-term tenancy which starts before 1st October 2015, landlords in that situation may be pleased to learn that the old section 21 regime will continue to apply to the periodic tenancy.
The main changes are as follows:
1. A landlord will not now be able to serve a section 21 notice at the start of a tenancy (s.36). Landlords often do this so that they can then rely on it when they wish to recover possession of the property at the end of the term so that they do not have to waste any time in waiting for it to expire before issuing proceedings for possession. A landlord will not be able to serve a section 21 notice earlier than four months after the beginning of the tenancy. There are limited exceptions to this.
2. A section 21 notice will effectively become invalid if it is not used as the basis for a possession claim within six months of being served (s.36). In practice this means that a claim for possession must be issued within 6 months of being served. If not, a fresh section 21 notice will be required.
3. Prevention of retaliatory evictions (s.33 and s.34). Where a tenant makes a written complaint to its landlord about the state of repair of the property and the landlord either fails to reply or give an adequate reply or responds by serving a section 21 notice, the tenant can prevent an eviction by reporting the matter to the local housing authority. If the local housing authority, issue the landlord certain types of enforcement notice, the section 21 notice served will become invalid and the landlord will not be able to serve a new section 21 notice within six months of an enforcement notice being served. These provisions are not yet in force. Again, there are limited exceptions to this.
4. There will be a new prescribed form for a notice served under section 21 (s.37).
5. Landlords are no longer required to serve a notice ending on the last day of a period of a tenancy where the tenancy is a periodic one (s.35).
6. S.21 notices will not be valid where a landlord has failed to comply with certain legal requirements such as Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates (s.38).
7. There will be an obligation on landlords to provide information about the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant under an AST (s.39).
8. Tenants will have a statutory right to claim back rent they have paid in advance in relation to a period after a tenancy has been brought to an end where the tenant is not in occupation of the property (s.40).