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Assured shorthold tenancy changes for landlords

Assured shorthold tenancy changes for landlords

New legislation has changed the process a landlord must follow to repossess a property under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

The legislation affects assured shorthold tenancies created:

  • after 1 October 2015
  • before 1 October 2015, but renewed with a new contract after that date

After 1 October 2018, the legislation will affect all assured shorthold tenancies retrospectively.

This is an overview of the changes the Deregulation Act 2015 introduces. If these issues affect you, you should get legal advice.

As a landlord, you can seek to repossess a property through section 21 as long as:

  • the fixed term on a contract has ended
  • you’ve given the tenant two months’ notice in writing that you want possession

Changes to the existing process include:

  • information you must give the tenant
  • how the notice is given
  • when the notice can be given
  • when the application to the court is made
  • refund of rent to the tenant
  • how tenants are protected if they complain about the property

Information you must give the tenant

Before a valid section 21 notice can be served, you must give the tenant:

You can email the leaflet, if the tenant has given you an email address and agreed you can use the email address for that purpose.

How you must give notice

You must use the notice seeking possesion of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy at GOV.UK to serve notice on a tenant.

You must use this form for tenancies that started after 1 October 2015. You can also use it for tenancies that started before this date.

When you can give notice

You can’t serve the notice within four months of:

  • the start of the tenancy
  • the start of the original tenancy, where the original tenancy expired and a new one was issued

The expiry date on the notice no longer has to be the last day of a period of the tenancy. It can be any date at least two months from the date the notice is served.

When you must make the application to court

After the section 21 notice expires, you must make the application to the court within six months of the date you served the notice on the tenant.

If a section 21 notice requires a notice period longer than two months, for example if the rent is paid every sixth months or annually, you must make the application to the court within four months of the expiry of the notice.

Rent refund

You must refund rent to the tenant if you end a tenancy under section 21 before the end of the period of tenancy and the tenant has paid rent in advance for that period.

The tenant has a right to be refunded rent they’ve already paid for the days they won’t be living in the property. This amount will be calculated pro rata.

If you haven’t refunded the rent when the court makes a possession order under section 21, the court will order you to pay the amount of rent the tenant is due.

Notice served after the tenants complain

You can’t evict tenants if the tenants complain about poor or unsafe property conditions.

You can’t serve a section 21 notice on the tenant for six months if the local council has served you with:

  • an improvement notice under sections 11 or 12 of the Housing Act 2004
  • a notice of emergency remedial action under section 40(7) of the Housing Act 2004

A section 21 notice won’t be valid if:

  1. The tenant made a complaint in writing to you about the condition of the property before the section 21 notice was given.
  2. You didn’t send the tenant a written response to the complaint within 14 days of the day the complaint was made.
  3. You sent the tenant an inadequate written response to their complaint.
  4. The tenant then made a complaint to their local council.

The tenant doesn’t have to make the complaint in writing if they don’t know your postal or email address.

If the tenant tries to contact you to complain but can’t get hold of you, the tenant doesn’t have to give you 14 days to respond. The tenant can complain to their local council without waiting for a response from you.

When the restrictions don’t apply

These restrictions on serving notice under section 21 don’t apply when:

  • you gave the tenant notice because they didn’t carry out their responsibilities as a tenant, such as paying the rent and looking after the property
  • the property is on the market for sale, and you’re not planning to sell to someone you know
  • you’re a private registered provider of social housing
  • a mortgage lender, or a receiver appointed by the mortgage lender to act on behalf of you, has repossessed your property and needs it to be vacant to sell it