An Update – Rented Properties, Gas Safety Certificates and s21 Possession Proceedings
The law surrounding gas safety certificates has been problematic for landlords, agents and property lawyers for some time now. Property lawyers are hoping that that the recent case of Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield (unreported, 13 February 2019), due to go to the Court of Appeal in the next year, will add some clarity to the law in this area.
A reminder of the rules
The law regarding gas safety certificates and rented properties is relatively clear. If a rented property has a gas supply, the landlord must supply the tenant with a copy of the current gas safety certificate at the commencement of the tenancy. A valid certificate must then be in place throughout the tenancy, and no valid s21 notice seeking possession of the property can be served unless these regulations have been complied with.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is the requirement for the gas safety certificate to be provided at the commencement of the tenancy. In several cases that have passed through the county courts over the last couple of years (Assured Property Services v Ooo June 2017 Edmonton County Court, Caridon Property Limited v Monty Shooltz February 2018 Central London County Court), Judges have found that the obligation to provide a gas safety certificate to tenants at the commencement of the tenancy is a “once and for all obligation” which cannot be put right later if the landlord has omitted or overlooked this when a new tenancy was granted .
This approach was confirmed in Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield (unreported, 13 February 2019). The Judge confirmed that the failure to provide the gas safety certificate at the beginning of the tenancy could not be remedied by providing a copy later, and emphasised the importance of tenants believing the property to be safe at the point that they are moving in.
The effect of this is that where a landlord has not served a valid gas safety certificate on the tenant at the start of the tenancy but tries to rectify this by supplying them with a copy later, a valid s21 notice seeking possession of the property cannot be served. This means that the landlord is left with what is effectively an assured tenancy. To regain possession, landlords in this situation will have to rely on the s8 possession procedure, which is only available as an option if the tenant has failed to pay the rent or breached the tenancy in some other way.
The Rouncefield case is now due to go to the Court of Appeal which may finally give landlords, agents and property lawyers a binding senior court decision on this issue.
For further information about possession proceedings, please contact Holly Baker or Janice Young from the Property Litigation team.