Legal changes within the private rented sector

There are ongoing legal changes relating to the private rented sector which affect landlords and tenants. For example, these cover: new smoke alarm requirements, changes to how and when a landlord can end a tenancy and, in some circumstances, protection for tenants from eviction when they have reported repair issues to the Council.

Listed below are the latest changes in date order (including proposed changes) to tenancy law.

April 2018: Electrical Performance Certificate (EPC)

From April 2018, landlords of privately rented domestic and non-domestic property in England or Wales must ensure that their properties reach at least an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of "E" before granting a new tenancy to new or existing tenants.

From 1 April 2020 for domestic properties, and from 1 April 2023 for non-domestic properties landlords of privately rented domestic and non-domestic property in England or Wales must ensure that their properties reach at least an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of "E"

These requirements will then apply to all private rented properties in England and Wales.

April 2016: Electrical Performance Certificate (EPC)

From April 2016, private landlords will be unable to refuse a tenant's reasonable requests for energy efficiency improvements to be made to a private rented residential property, if the property's EPC is lower than E.

Provisions in the Energy Act 2011 also provide powers to ensure that from April 2018, it will be unlawful to rent out a residential premise which does not reach the minimum energy efficiency standard. The minimum standard is intended to be set at EPC rating 'E'.

1 February 2016: Right to rent - immigration checks

If a private tenancy starts on or after 1 February 2016, landlords must check that their tenant or lodger has the legal right to rent a property in England.

The check:

  • must be carried out within 28 days before the start of a new tenancy
  • must be made for anyone aged 18 and over that is occupying the premises as their only or main home.

Please note: this check applies to the named tenants listed in the tenancy agreement and those who are residing in the property, but not listed in the agreement.

A landlord can be fined up to 3,000 for renting a property to someone who is not allowed to rent in England.

1 October 2015: Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms

From 1 October 2015, landlords are required to:

  • install a smoke alarm on every floor of their property
  • test the alarm(s) at the start of every tenancy
  • install a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with solid fuel burning appliances.

Failure to complete these requirements may result in a 5,000 fine.

During a tenancy, it is the tenant's responsibility to test the alarm(s) on a monthly basis.

1 October 2015: Retaliatory (revenge) evictions

The Deregulation Act 2015 includes new powers for local authorities to stop retaliatory evictions during an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. In certain circumstances, new rules prevent the landlord from serving notice to end a tenancy, if they relate to housing defects which have resulted in the Council serving a legal notice.

The Act is only relevant if a tenant has reported repairs issues to the landlord (or the person acting on behalf of the landlord) in writing before a notice to quit is served, and:

  • the landlord has not responded adequately within 14 days; and,
  • the Council has visited and where appropriate has served a Housing Act 2004 notice for poor conditions.

If a Housing Act 2004 notice is served by the Council, the landlord may not serve a Section 21 Notice to quit for six months and any previously served notice is invalid.

If you are a landlord or tenant and you wish to raise concerns about the property or wish to seek some advice, please contact our Housing Standards Team here.

Guidance for landlords and letting agents: read the Government's guidance notes on Retaliatory Eviction and the Deregulation Act 2015.

Guidance for private tenants: read Shelter's advice on revenge evictions here.

Important changes to Section 21 Notices

  • Landlords will no longer be able to serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of the start of the tenancy.
  • Landlords will need to provide tenants with prescribed information, setting out rights and responsibilites. Further details of the prescribed information can be found on the government's 'How to Rent: A checklist for renting in England' booklet.