The Deregulation Bill – Explained!

The Deregulation Bill – Explained!

The Deregulation Bill came into force on 27th March 2015.  Landlord Action were involved with government consultations championing landlord’s rights which resulted in the new bill. It contains a number of measures which will affect landlords of residential tenancies in different ways over the next three years.

The principle areas it affects are:

1. Energy Performance Certificates

2. Tenancy Deposit Protection

3. Section 21 notices and disrepair issues.

Not all measures have been implemented with immediate effect but here Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action explains what has or is changing, when it will affect landlords and which changes should already have been made or will need to be carried out in the future.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) – Applicable now

All landlords need to provide tenants with an EPC and a Gas Safety Certificate before the tenancy begins. If at a later date the landlord wants to serve a section 21 notice on a tenant, he will need to prove the tenant has been provided with these two documents, without which the landlord will be prevented from doing so.

Tenancy Deposit Protection – Applicable now

The Deregulation Bill clarifies some ambiguities relating to tenancy deposit protection which were not fully spelt out in the Housing Act 2004 and which were subsequently considered and ruled out in the Superstrike case and Ng c Charalambous – both Landlord Action cases. The bill has introduced a number of different measures which cover different scenarios.

Scenario:- A fixed term tenancy which started before April 2007 which went periodic after April 2007 – (the Superstrike position)

Response: If a landlord has not protected a tenant’s deposit and served the prescribed information on the tenant – he must now do so. He now has a period of time ending 23rd June 2015 to do this without penalty. If he does not do this before 23rd June 2015, it will not be possible to do so afterwards and will have to return the deposit to the tenant in order to serve a section 21 notice.

Scenario: Fixed term tenancy which started before April 2007 and went periodic before April 2007 – (the Ng v Charalambous position)

Response: A landlord must protect the deposit and serve prescribed information on the tenant before serving a section 21 notice.  He can protect the deposit and serve the PI at any time and there are no penalties for late compliance, but it has to be done before serving a section 21 notice.

Scenario: A fixed term tenancy which started after April 2007 which has been subsequently renewed or went periodic.

Response: Provided the landlord protected the deposit and served PI during the first term, then he/she no longer has to re-protect the deposit or re-serve the PI. If the deposit was not protected and PI served within the first term, then the landlord will need to return the deposit to the tenant before serving a section 21 notice.

Section 21 Notices

There are two main changes to section 21 notices – one in relation to the form and length of notice and the other in response to so called retaliatory evictions.

Form of Notice – Applicable from 1st July 2015

Currently, there are two types of notices – a S21(1)(b) which you use during a fixed term tenancy, and a s21(4)(a) which you use during a periodic tenancy, or when a fixed term becomes periodic. Going forward, if the tenancy originated with a fixed term, you can now use one type of notice regardless of whether it is currently fixed or periodic.

Life Span – Applicable from 1st October 2015 for all new tenancies created after that date and will apply to all tenancies (regardless of the date they started) from 1st October 2018. In addition to the changes in the types of s21 notice which can be used, s21 notices now have a limited life span. Currently there is no limit to how long after the notice is serviced it can be relied on in possession proceedings. Going forward (from October 2015) landlords will not be able to serve a s21 during the first 4 months of the originating tenancy. Furthermore, the notice only lasts 6 months from the date of service.  If a landlords doesn’t issue possession proceedings during the 6 months from the date of service, it will be necessary to serve a fresh notice and then wait for it to expire.

Retaliatory Evictions – Applicable from 1st October 2015

If a tenant serves a written complaint on a landlord, the landlord must respond within 14 days specifying the proposed action he is going to take. If the landlord does not provide an adequate writeen response within 14 days and the tenant then complains to the local authority who decides to serve an Improvement Notice or carries out emergency remedial action themselves, then until the works are carried out and signed off by the local authority, the landlord will not be able to validly serve a s21 notice. If not written complaint from a tenant has been received before a landlord serves a s21 notice then it will not be affected by these provisions.

Precise Treatment Reduces Pain

Detail needs experts. Expert time is worth it when it saves you a costly mistake. Main objective: Get the property back. Best action: Very precise treatment.

Serving a notice is actually the most important part of the possession process.

It isn’t complicated but one tiny error can cause dreadful problems.

That’s why we say, don’t DIY and don’t use internet amateurs. It’s not worth it.

1. Compliance Errors
If the tenant doesn’t leave at Step1, the notice had better be valid. Because then it has to go to court. Any little error can get a case thrown out. And you have to start all over again.

2. Attempting Short-Cuts.
In an effort to be quick, some internet services aimed at landlords are using short-cuts around the process. But if the tenant doesn’t leave (50%) these practices can backfire at court and the case thrown out.

3. Trying to Save Pennies.
Internet services have mushroomed and landlords can expect to get what they pay for. To get the process done PROPERLY it takes a certain amount of time for an expert to look over a file and be accurate. Our fees cover that expert time.

Chasing courts for dates, arranging advocates and preparing court papers is time consuming. Especially if you’ve never done it before.

Some landlord and agents have served notices themselves. They believed they were saving a few pounds but it often ended up costing them more.

If you lose a claim, the court can order you to pay the tenant’s defence cost, which can run to hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Our in-house Solicitors are there to get your property back as fast as they can. And we protect landlords and agents from themselves.

As experts, we know that in the rush to get things done, errors can happen. And those errors can can come back later to mess up your case – and the whole process has to start again.

You can speed things up – give us accurate information quickly. Help us to help you.

There are services on the web who will prepare papers BUT they get you to pay the court-fee separately and get you to sign the court papers – so in fact they don’t represent you!

If your notice (at Step1) wasn’t drafted or served correctly you risk wasting your court fees and losing a whole lot of time because of a small error.

We won’t let your case anywhere near a court until we have checked every little detail. To make sure you don’t waste time or money, at Step-2 we first only charge part of the fee.

If your notice is fine, then you just pay the balance of the fee and we issue the claim. If there is a problem with your notice or paperwork, we will advise you what to do next.

Courts take the view that possession proceedings can make someone homeless. So they are very careful. If there’s any error in the notice, they throw the case out. It’s the process. Get it right or lose.

If the notice is invalid, you have to start all over again. The weeks or months you’ve waited are wasted. If there were rent arrears, there are now more.

If there weren’t rent arrears, they might now start. More fees. More lost rent. And still no possession. Tenants can be alerted to making a counter-claim.

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