Changes to section 21 notices: the Deregulation Act 2015
Published April 2016
Written by Tim Matthewson
Notices under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 are used to establish a mandatory ground for possession of assured shorthold tenancies. A notice under section 21(1) is used in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy that was a fixed term tenancy (the notice may be given before, on or after the day on which the tenancy came to an end: see section 21(2) and Spencer v Taylor  EWCA Civ 1600); a notice under section 21(4) is used in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy which is a periodic tenancy.
The Deregulation Act 2015 made changes to the section 21 notice procedure, which came into force on 1 October 2015. The changes only apply to assured shorthold tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015 (and do not apply to statutory periodic tenancies that come into being after 1 October 2015 on the coming to an end of an assured shorthold tenancy granted before that date). However, from 1 October 2018, the changes will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies whenever created.
Simplifying the section 21 procedure
Some of the changes made by the Deregulation Act 2015 make the section 21 procedure more straightforward for landlords:
(1) A prescribed form of section 21 notice is introduced (Form No. 6A). It is to be used for notices under both section 21(1) and section 21(4) and should reduce the likelihood of a landlord making an error in a section 21 notice.
(2) In relation to a dwelling-house in England, a notice under section 21(4) no longer needs to specify a date which is the last day of a period of the tenancy.
Further protections for tenants
Other changes made by the Deregulation Act 2015 to the section 21 notice procedure provide tenants with further protections:
(1) There are provisions preventing retaliatory evictions by landlords. Where an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action under the Housing Act 2004 is served, a section 21 notice may not be given within 6 months. Further, where a tenant makes a complaint in writing about the condition of the dwelling-house before a section 21 notice is given, the landlord does not provide an adequate response, and the tenant then complains to the local housing authority which serves an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action, a section 21 notice given by the landlord is invalid.
(2) A section 21 notice may no longer be given within 4 months from the date on which the assured shorthold tenancy began. This will ensure that tenants are given at least 2 months’ notice before being required to leave their home by preventing the practice adopted by some landlords of serving a section 21 notice at the start of a tenancy.
(3) Proceedings for a possession order must now be commenced within 6 months from the date on which the section 21 notice was given (or in the case of a section 21(4) notice giving more than 2 months’ notice, within 4 months from the date specified in the notice).
(4) A section 21 notice may no longer be given unless the landlord has provided the tenant with an energy performance certificate, a gas safety certificate and a copy of the document entitled “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Note that it remains the case (under section 215 of the Housing Act 2004) that a section 21 notice also cannot be given unless any tenancy deposit paid is being held in accordance with an authorised tenancy deposit scheme and prescribed information about the tenancy deposit scheme has been given to the tenant.
(5) Tenants are given a right to recover rent paid in advance in respect of a period after a section 21 notice brings their tenancy to an end.
Notwithstanding certain simplifications made to the section 21 notice procedure, the overall effect of the Deregulation Act 2015 is to impose additional hurdles for landlords seeking to serve valid section 21 notices. Landlords should take careful note of the new requirements in order to avoid delays in recovering possession of their property.