In Wales, the Renting Homes Wales Act (2016) comes into force on 1 December 2022. It mandates a smoke alarm on each storey of a property. Like England, the Act also requires carbon monoxide detectors in every room, which contains a gas appliance, an oil-fired combustion appliance or a solid fuel-burning combustion appliance. This must be linked to every other smoke alarm through the mains electricity supply.
2. Appeal granted in a key gas safety certificate case
The case of Byrne v Harwood-Delgado reached a conclusion in May when a Circuit Judge sitting in Luton County Court accepted the tenant’s appeal. The case concerned whether failing to obtain a gas safety certificate before the tenant moved into a property prevented the landlord from issuing a Section 21 eviction notice.
The tenant moved into the property in 2019 and signed a checklist confirming he had received a gas safety certificate. However, he later disputed this. He was issued a gas certificate dated September 2019 in November 2019 and another gas safety certificate in October 2020, before a Section 21 eviction notice in November 2020. The Deputy District Judge issued the order based on the Court of Appeal’s decision in
Trecarrell House v Rouncefield, a similar case where a gas safety certificate was served to a tenant late.
However, on appeal, a Circuit Judge decided that the facts of the case could be distinguished from those of Trecarrell House, where the issue was late compliance. In this instance, the issue appeared to be a complete failure to comply because the landlord did not obtain a gas safety certificate pre-tenancy. Therefore, any Section 21 notice served was automatically invalid.
The key takeaway: Landlords must serve a valid gas safety certificate before a tenancy begins or risk being unable to evict using a Section 21 notice.
3. Renters Reform Bill
The Government’s Renters Reform Bill may be a little way off, but it’s useful to reflect on what we can expect from the legislation, as it represents big changes for the industry.
Likely the biggest of the reforms is the Government’s commitment to abolish no-fault evictions by removing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Grounds for eviction will be reformed, with new and stronger grounds introduced for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reduced notice periods for anti-social behaviour.
All tenancies will convert to a single system of periodic tenancies. A tenancy will only end if an occupier wishes it to or a landlord has a valid reason, as defined in law.
The Government also plans to allow occupiers to request a pet in their homes. Landlords will need to consider and not unreasonably refuse this request. To support this, The Tenancy Fees Act 2019 will be amended to allow landlords to ask a pet owner to have pet insurance.
Rent review clauses will be banned, and notice periods for rent increases doubled, while landlords will no longer be able to refuse to rent to families or those receiving benefits.
The Decent Homes Standard, currently used in the social housing sector, will set a minimum standard of condition that properties in the private rented sector must meet. Stronger powers will be given to occupiers to challenge rent increases and seek repayment of rent if their homes are of an unacceptable standard.
An Ombudsman will be created to settle landlord disputes without needing to go to court. This is intended to allow speedier low-cost resolution processes when an occupier makes a complaint. All private landlords will need to register with the Ombudsman.
Finally, a new online property portal will be “a single front door to help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and occupiers the information they need to tackle rogue operators.”
For more key regulatory updates agents should be aware of, see our free guide Regulatory Changes Affecting Letting Agents in 2002. We update it whenever major legislation changes are announced.
This article is intended for information only and does not constitute legal advice.
*James Dilgul is Head of Marketing at Fixflo, the repairs and maintenance management software provider