Update: The government has announced their intention to abolish Section 21 in early 2019. It is unlikely that the government will remove the law without another legislation to fill some of the void it would leave. Read more about the end of Section 21 here.
Landlords who want to ask their tenants to vacate the premises after the end of a tenancy must serve tenants with a Section 21 notice. However, following recent changes in legislation, this procedure is not as easy to complete as it once was. Confused? Let us break it down for you.
A Section 21 notice is the method by which a landlord can take possession of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) or a statutory periodic tenancy. This is a non-fault notice, and landlords do not need to give tenants a reason as to why they are asking them to vacate the property.
How has the serving of a Section 21 notice changed?
Introduced in 2015, the Deregulation Act seeks to reduce the number of unfair eviction notices served by landlords. Under the new legislation, a Section 21 notice can only be served on any if the following provisions have been met:
Compliance with the provision of prescribed information
Tenants must be provided with an Energy Protection Certificate and a Gas Safety Certificate, the most up-to-date version of the “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” guide, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the appropriate deposit protection information.
Timing of a Section 21 notice
A landlord can still serve a Section 21 Notice at the end of a fixed-term tenancy and during a rolling month-to-month tenancy with no fixed end agreement. If landlords wish to serve, they must fill out a prescribed form if the tenancy started after 21st October 2015, or write their own under the authority of Section 21 if the tenancy started before that date.
However, a Section 21 notice can no longer be served during the first four months of the contractual tenancy, protecting the tenant against landlords who wish for the tenancy to end early.
Lifespan of a Section 21 notice
Once a Section 21 notice has been served, proceedings to possess the property must commence within six months. If the landlord is unable to work to this set timeframe, the possession notice is rendered invalid, meaning proceedings will have to restart.
Protecting against a retaliatory eviction
The Deregulation Act 2015 contains provisions that protect tenants against retaliatory eviction. This is an eviction that occurs when a landlord takes steps to evict a tenant if they have complained about the condition of the property.
As a result, tenants must now put their disrepair complaints in writing to the landlord (or letting agent, in the case of a fully managed service). The landlord or managing agent then has 14 days to provide an Adequate Response stating when they plan to resolve and manage the repair to resolution.
If the landlord or managing agent fails to do this, the tenant can take the grievance to the local housing authority, where councils can serve an Improvement Notice or order emergency remedial action. If such measures are taken, the Section 21 notice becomes invalid and cannot be reissued for six months.
Whilst the changes may seem a little stringent, the Deregulation Act 2015 encourages landlords and managing agents to follow best practice - for example in making sure that complaints are dealt with within 14 days. With a massive emphasis on providing evidence alongside a prohibition on retaliatory evictions, managing agents and landlords should ensure that they have the right processes in place to remain compliant.
For more information on download our free Section 21 factsheet.