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Gas Safety and Eviction - A Sigh of Relief for Landlords

on Wednesday, 01 July 2020.

The Court of Appeal has held that a landlord will not be prevented from evicting a tenant where a gas safety certificate has not been provided...

...before the tenant went into occupation, as long as this information is provided before service of the notice of eviction.

The decision was handed down on 18 June 2020 in the case of Trecarrell House Limited v Rouncefield.

The Law

The obligations on landlords relating to gas safety are contained in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. A landlord's obligation under the Regulations include:

  • carrying out an annual gas safety inspection;
  • providing a tenant with a copy of the relevant gas safety certificate within 28 days of an inspection being carried out;
  • giving the current certificate to a tenant before they occupy a property; and
  • displaying the gas safety certificate in a prominent place inside the property.

A landlord cannot give notice pursuant to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to evict an assured shorthold tenant on a no-fault basis where the landlord is in breach of a prescribed requirement. The prescribed requirements include the gas safety obligations set out above.

Background

Ms Rouncefield was a tenant of a property in Cornwall under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. The tenancy was granted in February 2017. The landlord did not provide Ms Rouncefield with a copy of the gas safety certificate when she entered into occupation,  nor was it displayed at the property. The landlord eventually provided a copy of this gas safety certificate in November 2017.

In May 2018, the landlord  served a Section 21 notice to evict Ms Rouncefield from the property.

The landlord then issued possession proceedings. Ms Rouncefield relied on the fact that she was not provided with the certificate until November 2017 as a defence to the possession proceedings.

The Deputy District Judge found in favour of the landlord at first instance, and made a possession order. The tenant appealed this decision, and the Circuit Judge subsequently  held that late compliance with the gas safety regulations prevented the landlord from serving a valid section 21 notice. 

The landlord argued that the notice was valid as the certificate had been given before the notice was served. The landlord was given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Decision

The majority of the Court of Appeal decided that so long as the landlord had provided the tenant with all of the necessary gas safety certificates (including the certificate that was in force when the tenant entered into occupation) before the section 21 notice was served, the notice was valid.

The landlord had successfully remedied the breach of regulations by providing Ms Rouncefield with the certificate; it did not matter that this was provided in November 2017.

What Are the Implications?

The decision confirms that failure to provide a gas safety certificate prior to a tenant's occupation is not fatal to an eviction as long as it is provided prior to service of the Section 21 notice. Similarly, failure to provide gas safety certificates relating to subsequent annual inspections can be remedied before serving a Section 21 notice.

However, the decision does not touch on what would happen if there is no valid gas safety certificate at the time the tenant first goes into occupation or the landlord has failed to carry out annual gas safety inspections, and consequently failed to provide further certificates.

In the meantime, and although this case is good news for landlords, landlords should continue to comply with their obligations, both to ensure that the property is safe for a tenant's occupation and also to reduce the risk of there being any difficulties, should the landlord serve a section 21 notice at the end of the term. If there is any doubt, it is preferable to seek legal advice prior to serving the notice.


If you are a landlord or tenant and would like advice on gas safety requirements in residential dwellings, please contact Georgina Little in our Property Litigation team on 07468 698 933, or complete the form below.