Despite new legislation affecting assured shorthold tenancies (AST) coming into force in 2015 and 2016, landlords are still falling foul of certain requirements. If a residential property is let to a tenant under an AST and the law hasn’t been complied with, there can be serious consequences. Here is our bite size guide.
1. Ensure that you check that anyone over the age of 18 who will be living in your property has the right to be in the UK.
If you fail to do this, and it is found that those living in your property don’t have the right to be in the UK, then you could face a fine and/or be sent to prison. You are required to see and take copies of original identification of all those who are over 18 and will be residing in the property – irrespective of whether they are on the tenancy agreement or whether they are British or not.
2. Have an up to date tenancy agreement in place.
You should ensure that your tenancy agreement is up to date. It’s easy to keep using an old tenancy agreement without realising that it’s no longer compatible with modern legal requirements.
3. Place any deposit you take from a tenant into an authorised tenancy deposit scheme and serve notice of this on the tenant.
Deposits must be placed in a scheme within 30 days of being taken and the notice must be served on the tenant within 30 days of that. Either have the tenant sign something to confirm receipt or email it to them and ask them to confirm receipt.
If you don’t pay the deposit into a scheme, any subsequent section 21 notice served on the tenant will be invalid. It will also give the tenant the right to claim compensation of up to three times the value of the deposit and a Court may also order that you pay back the deposit at the same time.
4. Serve the ‘How to rent – the checklist for renting in England’ booklet, an up to date EPC certificate and a Gas Safety Certificate (if there is gas at the property) on the tenant before the tenancy starts.
The best practice for evidencing this would be to serve these documents on the tenant at the same time as they sign the tenancy agreement. They should also sign to confirm that they have received them all.
1. Ignore any requests by tenants for you to carry out repairs.
If a tenant complains, in writing, about repairs that need to be done, you must respond within 14 days. The nature of that response will of course depend on whether you are obliged to carry out the repairs complained of.
If you fail to respond within the 14 days or fail to carry out the works, the tenant can complain to the local authority. If the local authority then serve a notice on you to carry out the repairs, you will not be able to serve a section 21 notice on the tenant for a period of 6 months – even if you have carried out the work.
The rules on carrying out repairs, at this time, only apply to tenancies that started from 1 October 2015.
2. Assume that all section 21 notices are the same.
Due to a change in law in 2015 regarding section 21 notices, the form and content of the notice you need to serve depends on when the tenancy started. If it began before 1 October 2015, the old rules regarding section 21 notices apply. If it started after that date, the section 21 notice needs to be in a specific format and it can’t be served until the first 4 months of the tenancy has expired.
3. Forget to register a partial deposit.
If you agree to take the deposit in instalments, you are obliged to place it in a deposit scheme and serve notice on the tenant when you take the first one. Any further instalments must also be placed in the scheme; however you do not need to serve notice on the tenant for each one.
If you think that you may be in breach of any of the rules, the important thing is to take legal advice immediately. There may steps that you can take to reduce any damage that could occur and we can offer you a no obligation, free telephone consultation to discuss any concerns you might have.