Many landlords remain unaware of the significant changes which came into force on 1 October 2015 as a result of the implementation of the Deregulation Act 2015.
Perhaps the most important change relates to the date from which a section 21 possession notice can be served.
If a tenancy is granted on or after 1 October 2015 a landlord is not able to serve a section 21 notice in relation to residential accommodation in England in the first four months of the tenancy.
Where landlords and tenants enter into renewal tenancies the landlord cannot serve the section 21 notice in the first four months of the original tenancy.
This is a significant change for many landlords who routinely served section 21 notices immediately after signing tenants up to tenancy agreements. This practice is no longer permitted.
Another important change is that section 21 notices effectively now have a “best before date” as court proceedings for possession may not be started after the end of six months from the date on which the notice was given. In simple terms the section 21 notice dies if it is not used within six months of it being served. If possession proceedings are not started within six months of the notice being served the landlord’s only option would be to serve a fresh section 21 notice.
Remember that for certain tenancies the notice period needs to be longer than two months and that different rules apply for such notices.
Landlords also need to be aware that for tenancies which began after 1 October 2015 there is now a “prescribed form” which must be used for serving a section 21 notice in England. The notice is reasonably straightforward and is available: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms#form-6a
The good news for landlords using the new prescribed form is that notices no longer need to expire “on the last day of a period of the tenancy” – a form of words which caused landlords, solicitors (and judges) problems for many years.
Before serving the new prescribed form landlords must ensure that they have provided the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate, a Gas Safety Certificate and the How to Rent booklet: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent
If a landlord fails to provide the tenant with any of these items the landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice.
Getting advice before embarking on possession proceedings is a sensible investment of time and money. Landlords who bring possession proceedings and have their claims dismissed because of technical irregularities with the section 21 notice risk being ordered to pay their tenant’s legal costs.