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There has been a breakthrough for residential landlords of assured shorthold tenancies following the judgment of Trecarrell House Limited v Rouncefield, which was handed down on 18 June 2020. The judgment allows landlords to  serve a valid S.21 Notice even if they had previously failed to provide a gas safety certificate prior to a tenants occupation of the property, as long as the relevant certificate has been given before service of the notice. 

Previously, the case of Caridon Property Limited v Shooltz had left landlords feeling as they were unable to serve a S.21 Notice if they had failed to provide the gas safety certificate prior to occupation. 

S.21 Housing Act 1988 allows a landlord to regain possession from an assured shorthold tenant, even if there has been no breach of the tenancy. However, S.21A of the act states that a notice may not be given when the landlord is in breach of a prescribed requirements. Some of these requirements are imposed by the gas safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. These include a requirement to carry out an annual gas safety inspection (reg.36(3)), provide a tenant with a copy of a gas safety certificate within 28 days of any inspection (reg.36(6)(a)), and, to give the current certificate to any tenant prior to occupation (reg.36(6)(b)).

In the case of Trecarrell House Limited v Rouncefield, Mrs Rouncefield was an assured shorthold tenant, and Trecarrell House limited was her landlord. Upon her occupation of the property in February 2017, Trecarrell House did not supply Mrs Rouncefield with a gas safety certificate. However, in November 2017, a copy of the certificate dated January 2017 was provided to her. 6 months later, Mrs Rouncefield was served with a S.21 Notice and Trecarrell began possession proceedings when the Notice expired.  Mrs Rouncefield relied upon S.21A because the landlord had not complied with the prescribed requirements as they failed to provide the gas safety certificate before her occupation. The deputy district judge dismissed this defence and granted a possession order. 

Mrs Rouncefield appealed this decision, and the circuit judge, following the strict approach of HHJ Luba QC in Caridon Property Limited V Shooltz, adjudged that the S.21 notice could not be relied upon due to the failures of the landlord to comply with Reg. 36(6)(b). 

With permission from the Court of Appeal, the landlord appealed that “the conclusion in both Caridon and this case that a failure to comply strictly with regulation 36(6)(b) and (7) excludes the service of a S.21 notice for all time cannot be justified by or based simply on a consideration of the meaning and effect of the 1998 and the 2015 Regulations.”

In a majority decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that the late compliance with reg 36(6)(a) and (b) did not prevent a valid S.21 Notice being served as long as the landlord supplied a copy of the gas safety certificate that was current immediately before the  tenant’s occupation and a certificate that related to any subsequent inspections, at any time before service of the S.21 notice.

There is a possibility that Mrs Roucefield will appeal this decision.

The Government is planning to abolish Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 in any event.

Landlords should, in any event ensure that they comply with the statutory Regulations referred to above.

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