The Deregulation Act 2015 (the “Act”) is an eclectic mix of legislative tinkering. However, amongst the measures relating to sellers of knitting yarn and trustees of child trust funds are some key provisions that will affect residential landlords.
We have already commented in an earlier blog on the provisions contained in the Deregulation Bill intended to clarify the law on protection of tenancy deposits and s.21 notices to quit. However, the Act itself contains further provisions that will affect the validity of these notices.
Service of a valid notice to quit is, of course, a pre-requisite to successfully obtaining vacant possession. Sections 33-40 of the Act will make it easier in some respects for a landlord to serve a valid s.21 notice to quit and harder in others. These provisions are not yet in force and will not come into force until a relevant statutory instrument is made, but the implications will be significant.
It will be easier to serve a valid s.21 notice because the notice will no longer need to expire on the last day of a ‘period’ of the tenancy. Once this provision is in force, landlords will not be caught out by an incorrectly dated notice. The counterbalance to this provision is a statutory obligation to apportion rent paid by the tenant in advance to the date on which the tenancy ends.
It will be harder for a landlord to serve a valid s.21 notice where it has not properly complied with its statutory duties. These are to be specified by statutory instrument, but seem likely to include gas safety checks, PAT testing of electrical appliances, provision of EPCs and general statutory duties as to the state of repair and condition of the property and (where these are under the landlord’s control) common parts.
Finally, the Act seems to have put an end to the residential agent’s common practice of serving a pre-emptory s.21 notice at the start of the tenancy. Section 36 makes it quite clear that a s.21 notice may not be served in the first four months of a tenancy. It goes on to provide that a no-fault s.21 notice has a life span of 6 months from the date of the intended expiry of the term within which the landlord may bring possession proceedings. Presumably if proceedings are not brought with that six month window a new s.21 notice would have to be served.
We will write a short update post when these provisions come into force. In the meantime, landlords have an opportunity to make sure that they have the necessary records to prove statutory compliance for reference once the new Regulations are in force.