Possibly one of the most important subjects if you are a private landlord is also the one subject that you never think about until things go wrong. Recent changes in the way tenants are asked to leave mean you MUST have certain things in place before a tenancy starts. Let me refer to an individual who thought they did everything right.
This particular landlord inherited his property from his late father, wanting to hold on to the property until his own children were older he decided to let out for a few years until his daughter finished her University degree. He researched everything on what is required of a landlord as of 2012 rules, deposit taken, registered in the free government scheme, gas certificate and EPC issued. All he thought seemed well, that is until his tenant fell into financial difficulties, as can anyone in this difficult climate. Needless to say she fell behind on the rent by 3 months. Whilst she didn’t bury her head in the sand and hoped it would ago away she remained in contact with the landlord and tried her level best to resolve the situation. However, as there was no solution to the arrears the landlord felt he had no choice but to start eviction proceedings. This is where the landlord realised how things can go very wrong by not keeping up with all the government changes that can occur.
In October 2015 the rules regarding tenancies changed especially in relation to the eviction process, this forms part of the Deregulation Act 2015, and the indications are quite clear, it’s all about documentation and records. Which start all the way to the start of the initial contact with the tenant. Now all this information eventually will apply to every tenancy, For any NEW tenancies after the 1st October 2015 AND any existing tenancies that are over 3 years are covered under the Deregulation Act 2015, any tenancies that are statutory periodic aren’t covered by this new prescribed format, however, ALL tenancies as of 1st October 2018 will be subject to the new prescribed information format.
So what does the new prescribed Section 21 entail, well simply put, you MUST have provided to the tenants a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate, known as an EPC and a valid Gas Safety Certificate AND be able to prove the tenant has received this. The documents need to have been given, ideally, at the start of the initial tenancy. This should be a matter of course, and certainly is standard practice with a local trusted agent. Now if I may refer to my first paragraph, the landlord did provide an EPC and a Gas Certificate to the tenant, but of course didn’t acquire proof the tenants received this, this is where the problems started. The landlord issued the Section 21 in line with the requirements of being no earlier than 2 months prior to the existing tenancy end date, or if it’s a statutory periodic the same time period applies. The tenant sought legal advice going to her local council office and was advised to remain in the property up until and beyond the 2 months time period set out in the Section 21 notice. The reason for this is she believed the landlord didn’t take proof after recent changes that the EPC was actually received. The landlord found that the tenant hadn’t left by the date given and had no choice but to apply to the courts to regain possession of his property. The earliest date was nearly 2 months away. The tenant attended court and fought her case on the grounds of non-compliance with the latest changes, of which the courts found in her favour, even with the pleading from the landlord that he didn’t know there were changes.
Many of you reading right now may be thinking exactly the same and wondering where you can find this information out, it’s all located on the direct.gov website, you can of course speak to your local expert letting agent.
We are now at 4 months after the initial issue of the section 21, while the landlord in question was very forthcoming in his information to us he didn’t tell us if the tenant paid anything towards the rent for those extra 4 months, I think it’s safe to assume she didn’t, so a running total of rent arrears up to this point including the 3 months in arrears at the start and a monthly rental of £575, is £4025 not including court costs. This now requires the landlord to provide the tenant with a copy of the EPC which he sent via royal mail signed for to get proof of receipt. The landlord then had to re issue the section 21 again with the required 2 months leaving date adding another £1150 to the arrears. In this case the tenant indeed did leave and was rehoused by the council. All that remained was for the landlord to seek payment of the arrears which stood at £5175.
If we elaborate a little on a “what if” scenario. What if the tenant still didn’t leave, what if she wasn’t housed by the council, we can only assume if she fell behind with rent she would also not have the means to raise a deposit for a new property privately then the landlord would have to apply to the courts for eviction of the tenant, adding on average another 2 months for this, and in the worst case scenario, featured regularly on the channel 4 documentary “Rogue landlords problem tenants” you would need to enlist the services of a bailiff, which you can upgrade to the high court to get the tenant evicted. The time frame for this is a national average of 3 to 6 months.
Many of my readers may be thinking it would never happen to me, that may well be true, however, it does happen, even with a tenant that you may think is great as the story above shows.
In addition to the above for ALL new tenancies you must provide a copy of Government Booklet: How to rent: the checklist for renting in England This MUST be the latest available version at the time of letting and on a tenancy renewal.
Remember landlords, there is no better protection for your property than a local letting expert with the most up to date changes in rules and regulations. Godiva Estates are a registered Safe Agent and NALS certified. With Godiva Estates fully managed service all of the requirements under the Deregulation Act 2015 and section 21 notices are included. Can you afford not to enlist our services.
Stay tuned and register for more of these blogs. Next time focusing on Section 21 notices and ensuring all those maintenance issues are completed.
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