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New law to combat “Retaliatory Evictions”

From 1 October this year, Landlords who let English properties will have to be wary of a change to the law introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015 (the Act), which could limit their ability to serve section 21 notices to terminate tenancies. The restrictions will initially only apply to tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015.

Under the provisions of the Act, a section 21 notice served on such a tenant will be invalid where all of the following criteria are met:

  • The tenant has complained about the state of repair of the property, and the landlord fails to provide an adequate response to the tenant within 14 days of receipt of the tenant’s complaint; and
  • The tenant subsequently complains of substantially the same issue(s) to the Local Authority; and
  • The landlord’s response to the tenant making the complaint either to him or to the Local Authority was to serve a section 21 notice; and
  • As a result of the tenant’s complaint, the Local Authority serves a ‘relevant notice’ (either an Improvement Notice or an Emergency Remedial Notice) in connection with the property.

In addition, a section 21 notice cannot be validly served for six months after the Local Authority serves one of the said relevant notices in relation to the property (whether in response to a complaint by a tenant or otherwise) even if the landlord has subsequently taken action to remedy the complaint.

It is important to note that, until 1 October 2018, the new provisions will not apply to any tenancies granted before the legislation comes into force on 1 October 2015. Therefore tenancies which already exist as at 1 October 2015 will not be subject to the restrictions imposed by the Act.

The new provisions contain two important exceptions which permit landlords to serve a valid section 21 notice where either (1) it can be shown that the poor condition of the property was caused by the actions of the tenant; or (2) it can be demonstrated that the property is genuinely on the market for sale at the time the section 21 notice is served.

The introduction of these provisions is likely to lead to increased awareness amongst tenants of their rights. Landlords will therefore need to be careful to ensure that they respond quickly if tenants complain about the state of a property.