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The Deregulation Act 2015
The Deregulation Act came into force throughout 2015.The Act contains a number of measures which will affect landlords of residential tenancies.
The key areas of change are summarised as follows:
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)
For tenancies that began on or after 1 October 2015, all landlords must provide tenants with an EPC and a Gas Safety Certificate before the tenancy begins. Failure to do so can lead to a financial penalty up to 3 times the amount of the deposit. If, in the future, you wish to serve a Section 21 notice to the tenant requiring them to vacate the property, you must first be able to prove that these were issued. If you cannot prove that they were issued you will not be able to serve a Section 21 notice and you may be stuck with tenants that you no longer wish to reside in the property.
Tenancy Deposit Protection
The Act addressed the problem left by the case of Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues  and provided welcome clarification regarding deposit protection. The rules are numerous but in general terms:
If a landlord received a deposit before 6 April 2007:
- If the fixed term ended pre-6 April 2007
- The deposit must be protected and the prescribed information given to the tenants before a valid section 21 notice may be served.
- There are no financial penalties for non-protection.
- If the fixed term ends after 6 April 2007
- The deposit must have been protected and the prescribed information given to the tenant by 23 June 2015.
- There are financial penalties for non-compliance.
- If a landlord receives a deposit after 6 April 2007
- If the deposit was correctly protected at the time, the deposit does not need to be re-protected nor the prescribed information re-served on renewal of the tenancy/start of the periodic tenancy, so long as the tenant(s), landlord(s) and premises remain the same and the deposit remains secured in the same scheme.
Retaliatory eviction measures
The Act is intended to prevent a landlord from serving a section 21 notice within 6 months of an improvement or remedial notice being served by the local authority. It is intended to prevent an eviction in retaliation to a complaint. This change affects assured shorthold tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 October 2015.
If a tenant serves a written complaint on a landlord concerning the condition of the property, the landlord must respond within 14 days specifying the proposed action to be taken. If the landlord fails to provide an adequate written response within 14 days and the tenant then complains to the local authority, who decides to serve an Improvement Notice or carries out emergency remedial action, then until the works are carried out and signed off by the local authority, the landlord will not be able to validly serve a section 21 notice and any section 21 notice previously served will be invalid
A landlord can still serve a section 8 notice on the tenant, but given the repair issues, any claim issued based on that notice is likely to attract a counterclaim by the tenant for disrepair.
If no written complaint from a tenant has been received before a landlord serves a section 21 notice then it will not be affected by these provisions.
Tenancies granted by housing associations are not caught by the legislation.
Other Changes to Section 21
There are a number of other changes which came into effect from 1 October 2015.
A Section 21 Notice must now be given on a prescribed form. The prescribed form must be used for all Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) created on or after 1 October 2015 except periodic tenancies which have come into being after 1 October 2015 but which were fixed-term ASTs before 1 October 2015. It may however, be used for all ASTs.
A Section 21 Notice cannot be served where the tenant has resided in the property for less than four months, meaning that the practice of serving Section 21 Notices on the first day of a tenancy will no longer be possible.
A Section 21 Notice must state the date after which the tenancy will come to an end, but this is no longer required to be the last day of a period of the tenancy, even for periodic tenancies. Landlords should be aware that the expiry date specified in the notice must still be no earlier than 2 months from the date the notice was served.
If the AST is for a fixed term, the Section 21 Notice will only be valid for 6 months from the date of issue, meaning that any claim for possession must be started within this period, failing which a fresh notice will have to be served. If the AST is a periodic tenancy, the time limit is 4 months from the date specified in the Section 21 Notice.
Further, from 1 October 2018, the rules will apply to any AST (except for the requirement for the landlord to provide prescribed information about rights and responsibilities of the parties under an AST).
Our legal team has considerable experience in advising and acting for landlords, so if you need assistance, please call 01827 317070
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.