Many landlords have been waiting anxiously for the decision of the Court of Appeal in Trecarrall House Ltd v Rouncefield, a decision on a seemingly dry point of law, but one that will have large ramifications.
In the original claim, Trecarrell sought possession of Ms Rouncefield’s flat following service of a section 21 notice.
Ms Rouncefield argued that the Section 21 notice was invalid as she had not been provided with a Gas Safety Cetificate (GSC) before moving into the property, contrary to the requirements of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. Trecarrell agreed that this was the case, but argued that because the GSC had been served before the Section 21 notice, the notice was valid. The judge agreed.
Mrs Rouncefield appealed and HHJ Carr allowed the appeal, holding that the Regulations were written in such a way that the landlord had one chance to serve the Certificate and if it missed that chance, as Trecarrell had done, then the landlord would never be able to serve a Section 21 notice.
HHJ Carr based his decision on the reasoning of HHJ Luba QC this issue in Caridon Property Ltd v Monty Schooltz.
The conclusion of the two judges meant that landlords in Trecarrell’s position would never be able to serve their tenants with Section 21 notices and therefore, as long as the tenant did not breach the tenancy, might never be able to regain possession of their properties.
HHJ Luba QC commented that this end result might not have been what the government intended when they wrote the Regulations, but that is what the Regulations said. The government confirmed that they did not plan to legislate to fix the problem and so Trecarrell appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal today allowed Trecarrell’s appeal by a majority of 2-1. The Court has therefore ruled that the failure to serve a GSC only prevents a landlord from serving a Section 21 notice until the GSC is provided to the tenant.
This will no doubt be welcome news for landlords who may have fallen foul of this regulation in the past and found themselves unable to evict tenants using the Section 21 procedure. Given that the Court of Appeal was split, we cannot rule out a potential appeal to the Supreme Court on this important issue.
The Court of Appeal’s decision will remain binding unless and until it is overturned and so, while residential possession actions are still currently stayed until 23 August 2020 due to Covid-19, landlords should now be in a position to serve notices and start the process.
Many, if not most, landlords use an agency to deal with the letting administration for them. Specters currently act for a landlord who used such an agent and the agent failed to provide the GSC at the appropriate time, which prevented the landlord from being able to sell his property.
We are pursuing a professional negligence action against the agent as, although the landlord is now able to evict his tenants, the value of his property has decreased since his original attempts end the tenancy.