Dispute Resolution (work life)

Landlords of Residential Premises: Two legal changes

an electrical box

Landlords of residential premises should be aware of two recent changes to the law, as set out below.

Electrical safety certificates now a requirement

From 1 July 2020 Landlords of residential premises must ensure the electrical safety standards of 2018 IET wiring regulations are met. The regulations require that landlords:

  • ensure that a qualified person carries out electrical inspection of all fixed electrical parts (wiring, plug sockets, light fittings and fuse box) of at least every five years and issues a report.
  • supply a copy of the report to each existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection. 
  • supply a copy of the last report to any new tenant before occupation, or any prospective tenant within 28 days of a request from a prospective tenant. 
  • retain a copy of the report until the next inspection and test is due and supply a copy to the person carrying out the next inspection.
  • supply a copy to the local housing authority if requested, within seven days of such request.

The regulations will apply to for all new tenancies and tenancies that fall into a statutory periodic tenancy from 1 July 2020 and for all existing tenancies granted before 1 July 2020, from 1 April 2021. 

Local housing authorities can impose civil penalties up to a maximum of £30,000 and have the power to serve a remedial notice. In the case of houses in multiple occupation for which a licence is required, the licence may be revoked if there is non-compliance, and the tenant could seek a rent repayment order.

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Court of Appeal decision clarifies gas safety certificate regulations

After a Court of Appeal decision, landlords are no longer prevented from serving a section 21 notice where they have not provided the tenant with gas safety certificate before the start of tenancy. The recent Court of Appeal decision (Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield 2020) has determined that failure by the landlord to serve the Gas Safety Certificate before the start of the tenancy will not be critical to their ability to benefit from the Section 21 procedure, as long as they serve the Gas Safety Certificate before service of the Section 21 Notice and can evidence there was a Gas Safety Certificate in place at commencement of the tenancy. This now matches the provisions relating to Energy Performance Certificates and How to Rent Guide. This should assist many landlords who did not or cannot prove they provided the tenant with the Gas Safety Certificate before the start of the tenancy.

The Deregulation Act 2015 introduced numerous obligations on landlords and serious consequences for failure to comply with those restrictions. From 1 October 2018 these obligations and restrictions apply to ALL tenancies whether they commenced before or after the introduction of the legislation. 

The provisions apply to deposits and regulatory requirements for gas and electrical safety and failure to comply can impact on the landlord’s ability to obtain possession in certain circumstances. However, in most cases where a landlord had failed to comply with the requirements, the provisions provide for options for the landlord to protect their position and still be able to obtain possession. 

One requirement that the provisions did not clearly provide a work-around for the landlord, was the requirement to serve the Gas Safety Certificate on the tenant before commencement of the tenancy. On the literal interpretation of the provisions, failure to do so rendered an absolute prohibition on the landlord to be able to seek possession under the section 21 procedure which would therefore require the landlord to wait for the tenant to breach the tenancy if they required their property back for any reason. If the tenant did not breach the tenancy, the landlord would be unable to get the property back.  This was how the Court interpreted the provisions in the case of Caridon Property v Monty Shooltz (2018). However, the recent Court of Appeal decision described above further clarifies the regulations which brings helpful clarification and consistency.

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