The Deregulation Act 2015 set out some rules which require landlords in England to issue specific documents to tenants. From October 2018, they come into force for all assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs), regardless of when they began. If any landlord does not issue these, they won’t be able to serve a no-fault section 21 eviction notice should they need to.
The changes were introduced in the Deregulation Act 2015 and the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 on 1 October 2015.
A Section 21 eviction notice is now valid for six months only. It also includes protections against ‘retaliatory evictions’ where the local authority has issued an improvement or emergency remedial notice. In the latter case, the landlord cannot issue a valid Section 21 eviction notice for six months after receiving a notice.
It also protects tenants who have not received an adequate response to a written complaint and then referred this to the local authority. In fact, if they subsequently issue an improvement or emergency remedial notice, any Section 21 eviction notice after the tenant’s initial complaint becomes invalid.
Landlords must issue tenants with ‘prescribed information’ to be able to serve a Section 21 eviction notice.
From 1 October 2015, the reforms only applied to tenancies in England granted on or after 1 October 2015 (including renewals). From 1 October 2018, the rules will apply to all ASTs in England.
Making sure your Section 21 eviction notice is valid
As part of the new rules, all landlords must use the ‘prescribed form’ – Form 6a – when serving a section 21 notice.
All landlords with ASTs in England also need to have issued tenants with an energy performance certificate (EPC) and gas safety certificate. Otherwise, they cannot issue a valid Section 21 eviction notice,
There remains some ambiguity about the inclusion of the How to Rent guide for pre-October 2015 tenancies. In fact, the guide was only produced for the first time in 2015. While the letter of the law does not require How to Rent for pre-October 2015 tenancies, you should issue the guide to all tenants to cover all bases.
Also, issue all tenants with the prescribed information around tenancy deposit protection and protect deposits, as per the previous regulations.
When issuing documents, ask tenants to sign to confirm receipt or to send an acknowledgement email if you email documents. This will help if they challenge an eviction and it goes to court.
You must issue the EPC, gas safety certificate and How to Rent to the tenant before the tenancy begins. If you realise that you haven’t issued these already, do so as soon as possible. You may wish to start a new AST with your tenant in order to regularise the situation.