Things have been fairly quiet on the legal front in the first half of 2014 - we have been mainly looking back to the big cases of 2014 and looking forward to new legal developments to come.
The two big cases in 2013 were Superstrike and the Spencer v. Taylor case.
Superstrike was on tenancy deposits, and is the reason why landlords now need to re-serve their prescribed information every time the fixed term ends, whether or not a new fixed term tenancy is given. Tenants are succeeding in the courts with defences to s21 claims on this basis so it is a real problem for landlords.
The case is contrary to the governments intentions, but with an election pending there is little chance of the rules being amended by legislation any time soon.
Spencer v. Taylor
Spencer vs Taylor Is the case where the Court of Appeal came up with a new interpretation of section 21. Very much in landlord's favour as the Court decided that a s21(1) notices could be used whenever there had been a fixed term (whether or not the tenancy was now in periodic) with the more problematic section 21(4) notice only being necessary where there had never been a fixed term at all.
The general feeling though is that landlords should not rely on this case until such time as it is approved by the Supreme Court. I understand an application to appeal has been made, so watch this space.
Looking to the future
There are many plans for changes in housing law. Some certain, some less so.
The Immigration Act 2014 received the royal assent on 14 May - this will require private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants. However I don’t know when it will come into force and at the time of writing I cannot find a copy of the final version of the act.
Another change pending is the requirement for letting agents to be a member of a statutory redress scheme. The relevant organisations are either in place or are in the process of being set up, and the legislation is planned to come into force later this year.
There are also plans to require agents to disclose full details of the fees that they charge - probably as an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill.
Other proposals include a new voluntary code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rented sector, a new help to rent guide and possibly model tenancy agreements.
If there is a change in government however things may be different - Ed Milliband has announced plans to introduce rent controls and compulsory 3 year tenancies. These have however attracted a lot of criticism from the industry.
If you own property in Wales, then over the next few years the laws governing your properties are likely to change substantially.
The Housing (Wales) Bill is currently going through the Welsh Assembly which will bring in compulsory registration and accreditation for landlords and letting agents. Further down the line, a Renting Homes bill is planned, to bring into force the proposals made by the Law Commission in their Renting Homes report and draft bill which was published in 2006.
All landlords should take care to keep themselves informed of new developments, for example by subscribing to my Landlord Law Blog posts, so they do not get caught out..
We live in interesting times.
Tessa is a lawyer and writes the popular Landlord Law Blog at www.landlordlawblog.co.uk
The picture used to accompany this article in May's newsletter shows the Landlord Law Conference which took place in March 2014. www.lllconf.co.uk