How the new section 21 rules might affect your plans for winter repairs

December 8, 2015Tags: Landlords | letting | lettings | buy-to-let

Winter weather can be awful and not just for us, but for our properties as well. The wind can cause terrible damage, lifting roof tiles ripping off TV aerials and satellite dishes, and blowing trees and bits of debris onto the building. On top of wind damage, if there’s lots of rain it means that if there are any spaces where water can get in, you’ll find out about them! When temperatures drop, pipes can freeze and burst, then at the other end of winter you get snow and ice melting into already waterlogged ground and that’s when flooding can cause you huge problems. On top of all that, boilers can break down because of the strain of heavy usage, and plumbers who’ve got too many call outs to deal with might not be able to get to you very quickly to fix things.

So, before winter sets in, it is worthwhile doing what you can to make sure to your Buy to Let is in good shape to stand up to this potentially severe weather. It’s always been good practice to keep your property wind and water tight, and you may already carry out regular periodical checks like we do on all our landlords’ properties, but this is especially true now the law’s been amended which requires you to deal with repairs quickly and properly. 

From 1st October this year, new rules have come into force relating to section 21 notices to prevent landlords making ‘retaliatory’ or ‘revenge’ evictions. That’s where landlords who were simply fed up with their tenants complaining about things being wrong with the property would issue a section 21 notice and if the tenants didn’t leave, they’d evict them. Now, if your tenant complains in writing and you don’t respond and make proper repairs, you can’t simply get rid of them. If the tenant goes to the council and the council decide they’ve got a valid complaint, any section 21 you served after they complained will be declared invalid.

If the council agrees that work needs to be done, they’ll send you a notice telling you to make the necessary repairs and that’s when the section 21 becomes invalid. 

So this new legislation means it’s now doubly important you make your winter checks and repairs and have contractors lined up for emergency callouts, because the last thing you want is an unhappy tenant reporting you. In the worst-case scenario, where a section 21 you served gets overturned and you still want to evict your tenant, you’ll have to wait 6 months before you can issue another notice.

Obviously, if the council doesn’t think any repair work is necessary, the section 21 will stand as it is and the tenant will have to abide by it. The rules also don’t apply if:

  • the tenant didn’t put their complaint in writing 
  • they complained after the section 21 notice was issued to them
  • the tenant caused the problem themselves
  • the property is for sale 
  • the property has been repossessed.

In terms of what you should be doing as winter heads your way, we’d recommend you concentrate on these things: 

  1. Heating. If your tenants complain they’re cold once the temperatures drops and that’s because the property is badly insulated or the heating system’s not good enough, you have to fix it. Instruct a Gas Safe registered engineer/plumber to carry out your annual gas safety check towards the end of the autumn and make sure your boiler’s working as it should be. It’s also a good idea to ask the plumber to bleed all the radiators and check they’re working properly and have a look at the shower systems and water pressure. Then go around all the windows and doors yourself to make sure there are no draughts coming through. 
  2. Water proofing. Walk around the outside of the property and look for problems, such as missing or loose tiles, failing flashing on the roof, cracks or loose brickwork, and make sure the guttering’s clear so rainwater doesn’t build up and burst out where it shouldn’t. Then go inside and check every room for signs of damp, where water might be getting in because of something you couldn’t see from the outside. Take photos of anything that needs repairing and check any suspicious-looking damage against the original inventory in case it was caused by the tenant.
  3. Electrics. If you haven’t had a Part-P qualified electrician carry out a domestic installation check in the last 3 years, it’s a good idea to get one done. And make sure electrical items in the property, such as washing machines, tumble dryers and fridges have had their annual Portable Appliance Test. Blown fuses and power cuts are common in the winter, so do everything you can to make sure the electrical systems in the property are up to standard and not vulnerable. If your property is in Scotland, from 1st December 2015 it will be a legal requirement to have an electrical inspection every 5 years.

It’s also worth double-checking your landlord insurance to make sure you’re properly covered for flooding and other potential damage, including damage to contents. Importantly, make sure you have emergency contractors who you know will respond quickly so your tenants won’t have any reason to complain. The landlords portfolio insurance we offer at Your Move is tailored to your requirements and we also offer home emergency cover, which gives you 24/7 access to approved tradesman and cover up to £500. You can find more details on our website or just pop into your local branch and speak to one of the team.

And if you have any queries about the new section 21 rules or maintaining your property, please contact your local branch or call 0845 450 5507^ (calls cost 2 pence per minute plus your phone company's access charge) and one of our team will be happy to talk through your options. Alternatively, you can also email