Legal developments affecting landlords of residential property

23 June 2015

The basic position

Most of the repossession claims we see at ARAG arise because a tenant has defaulted and owes two calendar month's rent. The landlord acquires a legal righto repossess following the issue of a "Section 8" notice under the Housing Acts. Landlords who have taken out legal expenses cover can down load a section 8 notice and a covering letter from ARAG's legal services website. (You will need to register using your voucher code on your first visit)
If the tenant fails to respond to the Section 8 notice the matter should be reported as a claim and we will appoint a lawyer to help recover possession.
Sometimes landlords wish to gain possession of their property, not because of any default by the tenant but because they agreed a tenancy for a fixed term which has come to an end.  In these cases, landlords in England & Wales can issue a "Section 21" notice to quit. Again, this notice with a covering letter can be down loaded from ARAG's legal services website.
There have been some recent legal developments that make it more difficult for landlords to issue a Section 21 notice.

1.    The Deregulation Act (2015)
The Deregulation Acts contains a number of measures of interest to residential landlords.
The Deregulation Bill clarifies some ambiguities relating to tenancy deposit protection which were not fully spelt out in the Housing Act 2004 and which were subsequently considered by the Courts.

•    Where there is a fixed term tenancy which started before April 2007 which rolled over to a periodic tenancy after April 2007, the landlord must protect the tenant's deposit and serve the prescribed information on the tenant by 23rd June 2015 to avoid any penalty.  Failure to protect the deposit will result in the landlord having to return it to the tenant before a Section 21 notice can be issued.

•    Where a fixed term tenancy started before April 2007 and rolled over to a periodic before April 2007 the landlord must protect the deposit and serve prescribed information on the tenant before serving a section 21 notice.  He can do this at any time and there are no penalties for late compliance, but it has to be done before serving a section 21 notice.

•    Where a fixed term tenancy started after April 2007 and it has been subsequently renewed or rolled over to a periodic tenancy, provided the landlord protected the deposit and served prescribed information during the original term, the requirement to re-protect the deposit or re-serve the prescribed information on renewal has been repealed.  If the deposit was not protected within the first term, then the landlord will need to return the deposit to the tenant before serving a section 21 notice.

2.    Retaliatory evictions
In response to concerns that tenants felt unable to complain about housing disrepair because of their fear of eviction Section 33 of the Act will make it illegal for any landlord to evict any tenant with a Section 21 notice, within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness request or notice from the tenant. This part of the Act becomes law from 1st October.

Tenants who require repairs to be carried out are obliged to make a written complaint to their landlord who must respond within 14 days specifying the proposed action he is going to take. If the landlord does not provide an adequate written response within 14 days, the tenant can refer their complaint to the local authority which may decide to serve an Improvement Notice or to carry out emergency remedial action. The Act prevents landlords from issuing a Section 21 notice until six months has elapsed following the issue of the local authority notice.

3.    Section 21 forms
From 1st July 2015 a single form can be used irrespective of whether the fixed term has rolled over into a periodic tenancy. 

From 1st October for all new tenancies created after that date (and for existing tenancies from October 2018), Section 21 notices will have a limited life span of six     months from the date of service.  If a landlord doesn’t issue possession proceedings during this time it will be necessary to serve a fresh notice and then wait for it to expire before commencing repossession proceedings.

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