New legislation means it's going to be harder for landlords to evict tenants from October 1.
From the start of next month, landlords need to provide tenants with an energy performance certificate (EPC), Gas Safety certificate, and special government-written booklet. Failing to do so will make it much more difficult to evict tenants.
How to rent booklet
The government has written a booklet called 'How to rent: the checklist for renting in England'.
It’s available free of charge to landlords via the GOV.UK website.
However, there are no paper copies of the guide available. Landlords must download the guide, print it out and hand it to tenants, or else send it to them electronically.
The guide outlines what tenants should expect if they rent directly from a landlord or via a letting agent, and explains the rights and responsibilities of each party.
In my opinion tenants would be well advised to read the document before signing a rental agreement but, as it stands at the moment, the landlord is responsible for giving tenants the information when they sign the assured shorthold tenancy (AST) contract.
Energy performance certificate
Landlords also need to give tenants a copy of the energy performance certificate (EPC) for the property.
An EPC costs about £30 and contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, as well as recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money.
The certificate gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.
If the landlord hasn’t given tenants an EPC, he or she won’t be able to evict them using a section 21 notice, the so-called “no fault” eviction notice.
Gas Safety certificate
It’s a similar story with a Gas Safety certificate.
Landlords are obligated to hire an engineer listed on the Gas Safe register to carry out a safety inspection of every gas appliance or flue. The inspection makes sure all gas fittings and appliances are safe to use.
A record of the inspection must be given to the tenant before they move in or within 28 days of the check being completed if the tenants are already living in the property.
Landlords have long been mandated to have an annual gas check, but the new rules prohibit the use of a section 21 notice to end a tenancy if the landlord hasn’t given tenants a copy of the certificate.
Section 21 notice
A section 21 notice is the most common way for a landlord to evict a tenant. You must give the tenant two months' notice, but you don't have to actually give a reason for ending the tenancy.
Landlord bodies have criticised the government for bringing in the new rules at short notice, giving landlords little time to prepare.
The National Landlords Association described the enforcement of the new rules as “plain farcical”.
It said the regulations are poorly worded, badly timed and are being tabled with just days to spare before they are due to come into force.
The government isn’t actively marketing the new laws either – it appears to be relying on industry bodies and the media to get the word out on its behalf.
The new regulations will initially only apply to new tenancies from October 1 2015, and then to all tenancies from October 1 2018.
Landlords are being advised to ask tenants to sign and say they have received these documents – so they don’t deny it later on in the tenancy if there’s a problem.
The new rules about the “How to rent” booklet, EPC and Gas Safety certificate are the latest in a long line of regulations landlords need to stick to.
Since 2007 landlords have been required to protect any deposit given to them by a tenant in a government-approved scheme: either the Deposit Protection Scheme, MyDeposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Again, failure to do so will mean the landlord will not be able to use a section 21 notice to evict a tenant.
What's more, landlords will soon have to check the immigration status of tenants.
Right to rent has been trialled in parts of the West Midlands since last year and is expected to be rolled out across the rest of the UK before the end of the year. Landlords can be fined up to £3,000 if they let a property to someone without the legal right to live in the UK.