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Regulation of assured shorthold tenancies is tightened from 1 October 2015

From 1 October 2015, landlords must use a new, prescribed form of notice when ending an assured shorthold tenancy (“AST”) granted on or after that date.   Additionally, landlords will not be able to recover possession unless they have previously provided certain documents relating to the property and the tenant’s rights and responsibilities.

An assured shorthold tenancy is a type of residential tenancy granted to an individual that allows the landlord to repossess the property at the end of the term by service of 2 months’ notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.  If no notice is served, the tenant can continue to occupy the property under what is known as a statutory periodic tenancy (with the period usually depending on the frequency of rent payments, whether monthly or annual) until notice has been served.

A significant change for landlords is that they can no longer serve section 21 notices on the date the AST begins, as has been the usual, convenient practice. Instead, they must wait until the tenant has occupied the property for at least four months before serving a notice. Also, a section 21 notice will expire after six months for a fixed term AST and four months for a statutory periodic tenancy.  This means that a landlord will have to wait 6 months before serving notice to terminate a 12 month AST.  This is likely to increase the administrative burden on landlords who are juggling large portfolios of residential properties.

There are a number of other regulatory requirements imposed as part of the government’s on-going campaign to regulate more closely landlords of assured shorthold tenants. These include a requirement that, before issuing a section 21 notice, the landlord has to have supplied the tenant with:

  • an Energy Performance Certificate;
  • a copy of a Gas Safety Certificate; and
  • a copy of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s booklet: How to rent: The checklist for renting in England.

Although not mandatory, it would be best practice to supply the tenant with these documents at the start of a tenancy to avoid any delay when later serving a section 21 notice.

For now, these changes do not affect ASTs predating 1 October 2015 or any statutory periodic tenancies arising after the expiry of such ASTs.  However, as of 1 October 2018, the Regulations (except the provision of a DCLG booklet) will apply universally, regardless of when the tenancy was granted, so landlords are advised to get their house in order as soon as possible.