An interesting case was heard at Exeter County Court last month when a judge ruled that a landlord could not regain possession of their property because of a technicality relating to the issuance of a gas safety certificate.
It seems the landlord in question had failed to serve a gas safety certificate in accordance with the law, which states it should be provided prior to the commencement of a tenancy.
Following a dispute with the tenant, the landlord gained access to the property using a Section 21 notice. But the tenant obviously had some legal maneuvers up their sleeve because they successfully appealed stating that they were not provided a gas safety certificate before moving in.
But the landlord did not completely fail to fulfill his duties – a certificate was in fact provided post tenancy commencement but the court deemed that too late, and the landlord’s Section 21 powers were invalidated by the late provision of the certificate. So now the case is going to another appeals court.
This is not the first case of this kind and there have already been many calls for the Government to change the tenancy laws relating to gas safety, to avoid this kind of grey area – something that is all too common in our industry. The Residential Landlords Association for example, is supporting the landlord and they are not the only ones who are adding pressure for clarity around the issue. Many landlords, organisations and associations disagree with the judge’s ruling.
The argument is that many self managing landlords don’t know what compliance is required of them but I don’t see that as an excuse. Failure to provide a current gas safety certificate at the outset of the tenancy effectively prohibits serving of a Section 21 Notice. If that’s the law then yes, we can call for changes to that law, but until it’s passed, all landlords and managing agents must adhere to the letter of the law. Granted they are grey letters with an arguably unfair outcome but it illustrates the importance of getting gas safe certificates arranged early.
As most of my readers know, the Housing Acts of 1988 and 1996 set out the rules that apply to assured and assured shorthold tenancies. You can find all the forms relating to proposed action on tenancy agreements, on the government website via this link.
At Home-Share, we serve copies of the gas safety certificate alongside other prescribed information to the tenant for electronic signature, before they move in. It’s part of our tenancy checklist and standard procedures we outline to protect both our tenants and our landlords.