ADELE HOLLIDAY, of Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors, warns landlords over possible changes on the way

THE government is consulting on planned changes to the way residential tenancy agreements can be terminated by landlords, which would end “no fault” evictions, and could effectively make open ended tenancies a reality.

Agricultural Holdings Act and Farm Business tenancies, and Agricultural Occupancy tenancies, will not be affected by the proposals, but any landlord currently letting residential properties on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) basis, will need to be aware of the changes should they come to fruition. This will include property owners who are letting farm and estate houses or cottages on an AST basis.

At the moment, a tenant and their family can be given just two months notice to leave their rented home, if their landlord serves a valid notice. To be considered valid, the landlord must have first met all criteria including, among other things, having provided an Energy Performance Certificate to the tenant before the start of the tenancy, an up to date gas safety record, and prescribed information as to where the tenants deposit has been lodged.

If the landlord has failed to do any of these things or has failed to protect the tenants deposit within 30 days of receipt, a court may rule in favour of the tenant. However, if all of the necessary boxes have been ticked, the court will have no choice but to hand the property back to the landlord.

This has left many of the four million private tenants in the UK feeling insecure as they are living with the knowledge that they could be asked to move their whole family with as little as two months notice, even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

The government has therefore announced that it will open a consultation around the proposal to abolish section 21 – often referred to as “no fault” – evictions.

So, where does this leave you, the responsible landlord? Well, it will mean that you won’t be able to evict a model tenant because you do not particularly like them or you’d rather rent the property to a family member or another preferred party. You will also be unable to evict a tenant who has complained about the condition of the property and has asked for repairs to be made.

There will be changes made to current legislation, so that landlords who need to take their property back in order to sell it, or because they would like to move into it themselves are able to terminate a tenancy. The court process will also be expedited so that lengthy eviction proceedings are brought to an end, and the landlord can recover a property quickly from a problem tenant.

The meat on the bones of the proposals is yet to be finalised and confirmed, so it’s not clear whether a property let on an AST could be taken back from a tenant in order to house an agricultural worker employed by your farming business, nor to transfer the property into the farm estate business.

It is hoped that further clarity will be forthcoming once the consultation process has come to an end, and we can then offer advice to suit your circumstances.

The plans were announced shortly before the Tenant Fees Act came into effect on June 1, this year. Landlords should be aware of the Fees Act, as it is possible that letting agents – who are now no longer able to charge the tenant unreasonable fees for credit checks and for the drafting of a tenancy agreement, including renewal fees – will look to pass these fees onto the landlord.

Being a landlord brings with it great legal responsibility and now more than ever, you are urged to seek legal advice to make sure that you enter into an agreement with your eyes open, and that you do all you can to protect yourself and your property from any potential future problems.

To discuss it more, phone Adele Holliday, or one of her colleagues, on 01653 600070.