Thousands of landlords are facing unnecessary and costly legal battles when trying to evict tenants, simply because they have failed to provide renters with copies of a free Government pamphlet at the start of their tenancy.
The warning comes from a leading property disputes lawyer, who says many landlords are failing to comply with new rules governing Section 21 Notices introduced on 1 October 2015.
Sarah Woolnough, a Chartered Legal Executive at law firm Furley Page, explains: "Many landlords are failing to comply with the requirements of the new rules simply because they are not providing tenants with the correct information at the right time.
"For example, any landlord that fails to provide tenants with a copy of the Government's How to Rent leaflet are now in breach of the regulations, meaning they can't issue a Section 21 Notice to reclaim possession of their property. Thousands of landlords are incurring sizeable and unnecessary legal expenses when tenants challenge their eviction notice through the courts."
The Government does not provide printed copies of the How to Rent leaflet - which provides guidance to renters on key things to look out for when considering a rental agreement – so it is down to landlords to either provide renters with a printed copy, or send a digital version of the pamphlet by email.
A Section 21 Notice is a notice that the landlord must serve on the tenant prior to an eviction, either when a fixed term tenancy ends or during a tenancy with no fixed end date.
The new rules mean that landlords must provide tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate for the property, the current gas safe certificate (if the property has gas supplied) and the latest version of the Government's How to Rent leaflet. Failure to comply with the requirements means a landlord is unable to issue a Section 21 Notice to take possession of the property.
Sarah continued: "If landlords have not carried out all of the requirements, they are barred from serving a Section 21 Notice under the new rules. This means that unless their tenant is in breach of the terms of the tenancy, the landlord will not be able to evict the tenant and take back possession of their property.
"After a Section 21 has expired, it is too late for the requirements to be remedied, and the landlord must either start the termination process again, which can take many months, or take their chances in Court.
"My advice to landlords is always to ensure that all the requirements have been met prior to serving a Section 21, and to retain proof in the event of a legal challenge by the tenant."
Sarah Woolnough is a Chartered Legal Executive with Furley Page’s Property Dispute Team and she has extensive experience of advising landlords on procedures for recovery of possession of property. She is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
For more information and advice on property issues call Sarah Woolnough on 01227 763939.
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