Strict Ruling on Landlord Gas Safety Certificates
The recent County Court decision in Caridon Property Ltd v Monty Shooltz is of crucial importance to all landlords of assured shorthold tenants. The decision in the case was that a landlord who had failed to issue a gas safety certificate to an assured shorthold tenant prior to moving in could never rely on a Section 21 Notice (also referred to as a Form 6a) as a means of ending the tenancy and recovering possession.
Section 21A of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended by the Deregulation Act 2015) provides that for tenancies granted after 1st October 2015, a Section 21 Notice cannot be validly served on the tenant if the landlord is in breach of a prescribed requirement.
These requirements include the need for a landlord to provide a tenant with a gas safety certificate in compliance with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (the "Gas Safety Regulations"). Regulation 36(5) of the Gas Safety Regulations states that it is a statutory requirement for every landlord to ensure that:
- a copy of the record made pursuant to the requirements of paragraph (3)(c) above is given to each existing tenant of premises to which the record relates within 28 days of the date of the check; and
- a copy of the last record made in respect of each appliance or flue is given to any new tenant of premises to which the record relates before that tenant occupies those premises save that, in respect of a tenant whose right to occupy those premises is for a period not exceeding 28 days, a copy of the record may instead be prominently displayed within those premises.
In the Shooltz case, the court had to decide whether a landlord could validly serve a Section 21 notice if Gas Safety Regulation 36(5)(b) hadn't been complied with at the start of the tenancy.
The landlord had issued possession proceedings on expiry of the Section 21 notice. Deciding the possession claim, DJ Bloom held that because a gas safety certificate was only served on Mr Shooltz for the first time some 11 months after the tenancy had begun, this meant that a prescribed requirement had not been complied with and so the landlord's Section 21 notice was therefore invalid.
The decision was appealed and the appeal was heard to His Honour Judge Luba QC, Upholding the decision and finding in favour of the tenant again, HHJ Luba stated that:-
Section 36(6)(b) of the Gas Safety Regulations must be complied with at the start of the tenancy and this was a 'once and for all' chance for the landlord to get it right.
Any other interpretation of the AST Regulations could potentially allow landlords to let dangerous and unchecked premises which had not complied with regulations that are in place to protect tenants.
The judgment indicates the desire of the courts to apply a strict interpretation of the AST and Gas Safety Regulations.