The new leasing laws landlords need to know about

The accidental landlord is all for a new rental guide — but fears it's too wordy for Generation Twitter...
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Some tenants when their lease is coming to an end, can't be bothered to let me know whether they would like to renew or not and it is so irritating. It means that while I am waiting to hear from them, I am running out of time to re-let the property.

I had a tenant who was less than a month away from the end of his 12-month contract and yet he hadn't responded to any of my emails or phone messages asking if he wanted a new contract, or whether he was intending to leave.

Eventually, with just three weeks to go, I got an email from him. He said he had been too busy to think about his lease and would let me know soon. I felt like shaking an answer out of him.

Tenants are within their rights to leave a property at the end of their lease without giving the landlord any notice at all. They can just get up and go, and yet if a landlord wants to repossess their property at the end of the contract, they have to give at least two months' notice.

I was worried that unless I could get this guy to commit to a new contract he might decide at the eleventh hour to move out, leaving me with no rent coming in, so I put a rocket up his backside by telling him that if he didn't accept my offer of a new lease within 24 hours I would serve him two months' notice and start looking for new tenants. It took him less than two hours to decide to stay. To avoid this uncertainty when tenants are coming to the end of their term, some landlords are in the habit of serving these Section 21 repossession notices at the start of the tenancy, to expire on the last day of the contract.

This puts the onus on the tenant to tell the landlord well in advance if they would like to renew their lease. If they don't get in touch, they risk being booted out on the day their tenancy ends. However, the Government has made changes to Section 21 notices and how they are issued. Starting tomorrow, landlords will have to change how they use this little ploy.

For all new tenancies from October 1, landlords won't be able to issue a Section 21 notice within the first four months of a tenancy, and such notices will only be valid for six months.

From October 2018, this will apply in the case of all tenancies, regardless of when they started.

I believe this is all part of the Government's attempts to stop less ethical landlords (not you and me, obviously) from trying to rid themselves of tenants who dare to complain about the state of their properties. From now on, if a tenant has made a written complaint, you can't issue a Section 21 notice until you have dealt with the problem, which is fair enough.

Also, the Government announced just last week that tenants must now be given a new How to Rent booklet. Unless landlords have provided this, either as a hard copy or by email, along with valid gas safety records and energy performance certificates — which were previously required — they won't be able to start repossession proceedings. How to Rent is quite a handy little guide, obviously written by someone in Government with plenty of spare time on their hands, which sets out landlords' and tenants' rights and obligations. It will be useful to tenants if any of them bother to read it — but as it's more than 140 characters long, I don't think many of mine will.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock 

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