Of course, landlords need to ensure that they provide a Gas Safety Certificate to a tenant before occupation. However, what if this certificate is given late? Does that mean that a landlord can never serve a Section 21 notice?
A Court of Appeal decision has been made; all information in this article is from Landlord Blog – https://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2020/06/18/failing-serve-gas-safety-certificate-tenants-move-fatal-s21-claims-says-court-appeal/
This post is written by housing barrister Justin Bates who led for the successful landlord in this case.
In Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield the Court of Appeal has held (by 2 to 1) that a landlord who has failed to provide his tenant with a gas safety certificate before the tenant enters into occupation is not prevented from using s.21, Housing Act 1988 to recover possession so long as he remedies that omission before service of the notice.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 impose various obligations on residential landlords. These include a requirement to carry out an annual gas safety inspection (r.36(3)); to give a tenant a copy of a gas safety certificate within 28 days of any such inspection (reg.36(6)(a)); and, to give the current certificate to any tenant prior to occupation (reg.36(6)(b)).
Section 21, Housing Act 1988 creates a “no fault / notice only” ground for possession against an assured shorthold tenant. A notice may not be given at a time when a landlord is in breach of a prescribed requirement (s.21A, 1988 Act). The prescribed requirement include reg.36(6) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, save that
… the requirement… is limited to the requirement on a landlord to give a copy of the relevant record to the tenant and the 28 day period for compliance with that requirement does not apply
In February 2017, Ms Rouncefield became the assured shorthold tenant of a flat of which Trecarrel House Ltd was her landlord. The landlord did not give her a gas safety certificate before she entered into occupation but, in November 2017, provided her with a copy of a certificate dated January 2017.
In May 2018, the landlord served notice under s.21, Housing Act 1988 and issued possession proceedings. The tenant defended the claim on the basis that because no gas safety certificate had been provided prior to her taking occupation, the landlord was not entitled to serve notice under s.21.
The Circuit Judge held that a failure to provide a gas safety certificate before the tenancy commenced was not capable of being remedied and dismissed the claim for possession.
The Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal. The tenant served a Respondents’ Notice taking a new issue. It was said that there had been a further gas safety check carried out in February 2018 and that no gas safety certificate had been provided in respect of that test; the failure to do so was said to amount to a breach of a prescribed requirement and so to provide a further reason why the s.21 notice was invalid. The landlord contended that the certificate
had been given before the s.21 notice was served.
By a majority, the Court of Appeal held that the correct construction of s.21A and the 2015 Regulations was that the time period for compliance with both Reg.36(6)(a) and (b) was disapplied.
Thus, a s.21 notice could be given so long as the landlord had – at any time before service of the s.21 notice – given the tenant a copy of the certificate which was in force before they entered into occupation and a copy of any further certificate which related to a subsequent inspection.
It was therefore immaterial that the January 2017 certificate had not been given to the tenant until November 2017. There was, however, a factual dispute as to
whether the 2018 certificate had been provided and that was remitted for consideration by the county court.
In simple terms, this is good news for landlords. A failure to provide the original gas safety certificate prior to the tenant going into occupation is not fatal to a s.21 claim so long as it is provided before the s.21 notice is served.
Likewise, the failure to give the annual test certificate is not fatal so long as it too is given before the s.21 notice is served. Given the huge number of gas safety tests that have been missed as a result of the current public health crisis, that is likely to come as a sharp relief.
There are, however, two difficult questions which are left open by the judgment.
The first is what the position is if the landlord has not done a gas safety check (and so does not have a gas safety certificate) for the period before the tenant went into occupation. How (if at all) can that be remedied? What if a check was done but the record is now not available?
The second is similar. What happens if the landlord fails to do the annual gas safety inspection so that there is no certificate to provide? This is probably less important. There is recognition in the judgment that the duty to do an annual safety inspection (reg.36(3)) is not a prescribed requirement for the purposes of s.21A, Housing Act 1988.
There is, however, something rather unattractive about a landlord seeking possession in circumstances where he has unlawfully failed to do a check (and thus provide a certificate) and whether that amounts to (impermissibly) relying on your own wrongdoing.
Tuesday 30th June 2020, 2pm
Hosted by Paul Shamplina, Landlord Action and Fran Miller, Bristol City Council.
Paul Shamplina has 28 years’ experience in the legal field helping landlords; and set up Landlord Action in 1999 . Paul believes passionately in the rights of landlords and campaigns to improve the standards in the private rented sector. Well known in the media, Paul regular presents on Channel Five’s hit series ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’ Paul will be sharing his knowledge, experience and expertise in his webinar at a time when landlords face an uncertain future.
Paul, recently awarded ‘Best Seminar Speaker 2019 at the National Landlord Investment Show Awards, is generously giving you the opportunity to keep up to date and will be covering:
The extension announced by the Housing Secretary on 5 June 2020 takes the moratorium on evictions to a total of 5 months to ensure that renters continue to have certainty and security.
What is the purpose of the Discretionary Business Grants?
The discretionary fund will support businesses who have fixed costs and have been affected by COVID-19. The intention of the grant is to support small businesses with high premises-related costs that fell outside of the original grant scheme.
HMO landlords have fixed costs (Council Tax, water rates, utility bills). HMO landlords who have had a COVID-19 related drop in rental income may wish to consider applying for the discretionary grant. The applications are assessed on a points basis. Applications opened on 01 June 2020 so if you intend on applying, do not delay. Grants are likely to be awarded only in exceptional circumstances so you will need to prove that you have had a drop in rental income.
This grant is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. Local authorities are to to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. But local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.
Businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.
For further information and to make an application, visit your Local Authority website.
With effect from 28 May 2020, individuals who have been notified that they have had contact with an infected person and instructed to stay at home for 14 days under the new NHS test and trace system will also be deemed incapable of work and eligible for SSP (statutory sick pay).
For further information, see the full guidance; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1 June 2020.
The new regulations will apply to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
Landlords must have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is “qualified and competent”, at least every five years. Landlords must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants (and to their local authority if requested). For further information, please see the government guidance link above.