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Changes to Assured Shorthold Tenancies

The Deregulation Bill which is currently before the House of Lords proposes important changes to Assured Shorthold Tenancies which will affect landlords of private residential properties.

The Government is trying to ensure that if a tenant makes a complaint about the condition of the premises, the landlord cannot simply give notice to vacate and recover possession of the property. The Government intends to impose conditions before a Section 21 Notice will be valid. If the tenant has made a complaint the landlord must give an adequate response in writing within 14 days, including details of landlord’s proposals for dealing with the complaint and a timescale. If the landlord has been served with an Improvement Notice by a local authority the landlord will not be able to serve a Section 21 Notice for six months.

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It is also proposed that landlords will no longer be able to serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of the start of the tenancy.

If a landlord serves a Section 21 Notice it will not be valid after six months. If legal proceedings have not been commenced within six months of service the landlord will have to serve a fresh Section 21 Notice, wait another two months and then issue legal proceedings.

Issues relating to Health & Safety

It is proposed new regulations will be introduced to provide that a Section 21 Notice cannot be served if there are issues in relation to health and safety, the condition of the premises or energy performance.

If the bill is passed these changes are likely to be introduced in October 2015.

The Deregulation Bill also proposes changes to the tenancy deposit regulations.

A new prescribed form of Section 21 is to be used. Regulations will be introduced to overturn the decision in Superstrike v Rodrigues [2013] EWCA CIV669, so that if a deposit was paid before the regulations came into force for a fixed term tenancy which then became a periodic tenancy after 6 April 2007, the landlord will have a further 90 days to protect the deposit and serve the prescribed information.

If a deposit was received by the landlord after 6 April 2007, paid into an appropriate scheme and the prescribed information was served then, when the tenancy becomes a statutory periodic tenancy, or is renewed, there will be no need to take any further action.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Landlords also face new regulations with regard to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

New regulations are to be introduced with effect from October 2015, which will require private landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of the property and test them at the start of every tenancy. A failure to do so could result in a fine up to £5,000.

In addition, where there are high risk rooms, for example with solid fuel heating systems, then a carbon monoxide alarm will also need to be installed.