Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
Government Action to Tackle Revenge Evictions
The Government has introduced a new law to prevent so-called revenge evictions. This follows concerns that tenants, who legitimately complained about the state of the property they were living in, were being evicted by their landlord in retaliation.
The Deregulation Act 2015, which came into force on 1st October 2015, introduces a number of important changes concerning when a landlord may serve a Section 21 Notice in order to regain possession of their property.
Firstly, landlords must now use a new form when serving a Section 21 eviction notice. The form must be used for assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) entered into on or after 1st October 2015. However, the Government is also encouraging landlords to use the form for tenancies entered into before that date as it will apply to all ASTs from October 2018.
Secondly, for a Section 21 notice to be valid, as well as the usual deposit protection, landlords must have also provided:
• an Energy Performance Certificate
• a gas safety certificate
• the Government’s How to Rent guide.
Furthermore a Section 21 Notice cannot be served during the first four months of the tenancy and once served it must be used within six months.
According to research by the charity Shelter, more than 200,000 renters currently face ‘revenge’ evictions every year. To combat this, under the new rules, if a tenant makes a written complaint about the condition of the property, the landlord must respond in writing specifying what they intend to do and the timescale for doing it. If they fail to do this within 14 days, or the work is not carried as promised, the tenant may then complain to the local authority. If this results in an improvement no-tice or the local authority carries out Emergency Remedial Works under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), the landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice for the next six months.
While these reforms will be welcomed by many for redressing the balance and providing the tenant with increased protection against revenge evictions, there is concern the changes to the Section 21 Notice could also slow down the process of regaining possession of the property.
For instance, if your tenants have not left by the date specified in your Section 21 notice you may be able to seek an order for possession using the accelerated route. This is usually quicker than ap-plying for a possession order under the standard route and there’s usually no court hearing.
However, the accelerated possession service may increasingly fail if a tenant asserts that they have made a complaint about the condition of the property that has not been answered adequately. Where this occurs, there is also likely to be greater pressure on local authorities to carry out inspec-tions of the property promptly and it remains to be seen whether they will have the resources to cope with the extra workload. If there is a backlog then delays in recovering possession may be inevitable.
For advice on filling in a Section 21 with the correct notice periods and how to give these documents to your tenants contact Kathryn Bolton at Andrew & Co LLP by calling 01522 781475 or emailing email@example.com