CHANGES TO S21 NOTICES
The changes introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015 have applied to all tenancies since 1st October 2018. The new rules have applied to new tenancies for some time but from 1st October Leicestershire landlords and agents must ensure that they use the new style prescribed Section 21 Notice for all tenancies. Any old style Section 21 notices are invalid.
Many additional requirements introduced by this legislation now apply to all tenancies. Most, however, require items to be given to the tenant prior to entering into the tenancy.
The following must be given to the tenant and this should include any tenants prior to 1st October:
- Gas safety record
- Valid EPC
- Latest version of the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ Guide
- An HMO licence – if required
The law now says that a Section 21 notice will be invalid if these items have not been given to the tenant prior to the tenancy. By ensuring compliance at the earliest possible moment, a good defence could be mounted should the matter land up before the Courts.
Remember also that a Section 21 Notice can now expire on any day providing a full two months’ notice is given. (Different rules apply if the tenancy was a periodic tenancy from day one.) It seems obvious, but it is now law, that any overpayment of rent must be repaid when the tenant vacates the property.
The notice cannot, however, be served until four months of the tenancy have elapsed and it only has a ‘shelf life’ of six months – ‘use it or lose it’.
An Improvement Notice served by the Local Authority will mean that Section 21 notices will be invalid for six months.
HMO LICENSING (HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION)
From the 1st October 2018 the definition of a licensable HMO as defined under the Housing Act 2004 changed for landlords in Leicester. The definition is now:
‘A property occupied by five or more people who form two or more households’.
The previous requirement of 5 storeys has been removed. There will now be many more licensable HMOs in the country and Leicestershire agents should ensure that they advise clients accordingly.
Minimum room sizes have also been introduced in the hope of stamping out overcrowding.
Local Authorities are becoming more and more interested in Standard HMOs. This is a property let to two or more households i.e. two unrelated people, but in the case of sharers the number is three.
If a family decides to let, or sublet, a room in their rented house they could easily be creating an HMO and not have any idea they had done so.
This would probably be unbeknown to the landlord or agent. For whatever reason the Local Authority could be alerted to the fact that this is now a licensable HMO. There is now the potential for the landlord to be fined up to £30,000 for not having a licence. There is also the possibility that the First Tier Tribunal could order the refund of up to 12 months’ rent.