An amendment to the Deregulation Act, which will take effect in October, will impact significantly on landlords, particularly on the way in which they deal with requests for repairs and maintenance from tenants. It may also impact on a landlord’s ability to serve a notice to gain possession of their property.
Leaders’ technical & compliance director, Carole Charge, says: “All assured shorthold tenancies - the most common form of private tenure in England – will be affected by these changes. All private landlords need to be aware of the implications, one of which is that they will not be able to serve a no-fault two month notice to quit (Section 21) if their tenant has recently raised a legitimate complaint about the condition of the property and an improvement notice has been served by the local authority.
“In effect this means that a section 21 notice given in relation to an AST will be invalid if, before the notice was given, the tenant made a complaint in writing to the landlord regarding the condition of the property and - if the landlord did not provide an adequate response to the complaint within 14 days - the tenant then made a complaint to the local housing authority which served a relevant notice on the landlord.
“In order to provide an ‘adequate response’ to a complaint, the landlord must respond in writing detailing the action he or she proposes to take to address the complaint and set out a reasonable timescale in which that action will be taken. If you use a letting agent to manage your property, you should check that they have updated their procedures so that this will be done correctly on your behalf. If you do not use an agent you will need to make sure you understand all the requirements and act accordingly.”
In addition, the amendment to the Act means that Section 21 notices cannot be served in the first four months of an AST and a Section 21 will have a lifespan of just six months. “It is therefore critical,” says Ms Charge, “for landlords to serve a Section 21 notice at the correct time in order to successfully regain possession of their property when they need to. Again, your letting agent should do this for you, provided they are aware of these changes and have updated their procedures in time for when the legislation comes into effect.”
The amendment to the Deregulation Act is intended to clamp down on the small number of rogue landlords with poor standard properties who evict tenants who complain or ask for repairs or improvements. However, there are concerns that it may have unintended consequences because unscrupulous tenants will be able to raise complaints and abuse the new powers to block legitimate possession proceedings.
“To protect themselves from this,” says Ms Charge, “landlords must make sure they respond to any complaints or maintenance requests promptly and in the right way. Those managing their properties themselves will need to make sure they have a good understanding of the new requirements.” Leaders will shortly be releasing detailed information and a Landlord Guide which will be available on their website explaining the changes, with a checklist landlords can use to ensure their property is up to standard and meets the government’s criteria for a safe rented home.