Update: ASTs , gas safety records and section 21 notices
20 June 2020
This is a brief note on the recent Court of Appeal decision of Trecarrell House Limited v Rouncefield (2020), where judgment was handed down on 18 June 2020, examining whether non-service of a gas safety record ("GSR") before the start of an assured shorthold tenancy precludes the landlord from being able to serve a valid section 21 notice requiring possession.
The facts are very simple. The landlord, Trecarrell House Limited, granted an assured shorthold tenancy to Mrs Rouncefield of a flat. The flat did not make use of gas appliances but it was supplied with hot water which was heated by a gas-fired boiler. Before the tenant took occupation, the landlord did not serve her with a copy of the most recent GSR. Subsequently, but only after the tenancy had started, the landlord provided the latest GSR. Following that, the landlord served a section 21 notice seeking possession and then brought proceedings for possession. The tenant defended the possession claim on the basis that by the time the section 21 notice had been served, the GSR was out of date.
This matter was initially heard in the county court where the landlord successfully argued that because there were no gas appliances in the flat, the relevant part of the Gas Safety Regulations 1998 ("the Regulations") did not apply. The tenant then appealed where she successfully argued that the application of the gas safety regulations did apply because although her flat did not contain appliances which utilised the gas supply, the hot water supplying the flat was heated by an external gas boiler. The court also concluded that both (a) the landlord's failure to provide the tenant with a valid GSR before the tenant occupied (as required by regulation 36(6)(b) of the Regulations) and (b) the landlord's failure to display a copy of the valid GSR in a prominent position in the premises (as required by regulation 36(7)) could not be cured by subsequent late provision of the relevant information and that accordingly the landlord was precluded from serving a section 21 notice.
The landlord then applied to the Court of Appeal.
The main issue
The court had various issues to consider but the primary issue for determination was whether the landlord's failure to provide the tenant with the GSR prior to the tenant taking occupation means that the landlord may never serve a valid section 21 notice.
The court decided (by a majority of 2:1) that landlords who fail to provide a current GSR prior to commencement of the tenancy are not precluded from subsequently serving a valid section notice provided that the GSR is provided before the notice is served. Some of the reasoning behind this is as follows:
It was never the intention for AST tenants to be granted full security of an assured tenancy by a failure to provide a valid GSR before the tenant takes occupation; and
There are existing criminal sanctions which may be brought against landlords who fail to comply with the Regulations. If landlords comply, albeit late, they should not be precluded from being able to obtain possession via section 21.
This long-awaited decision will be welcome news for landlords. There has been some uncertainty following the first appeal but landlords will be reassured that they will be able to serve a valid section 21 notice if they have overlooked providing the GSR at the start of the tenancy.
If you would like to read the judgment in full, a copy can be found here.
If you have any questions about the above, or if you have a query about a landlord and tenant issue you would like to discuss, please contact Mike Ellis or Alexandra Sollohub or use the contact form below.