On 13th February 2019, the Exeter County Court heard the case of Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield. The case highlights the importance of gas safety certificates and further stipulates the requirement for landlords to provide gas safety certificates to their tenants before they occupy the property.
The case of Trecarrell confirms the earlier decision taken in Caridon Properties Ltd v Monty Shooltz heard in the Central London County Court in February 2018, as previously discussed on our blog.
It is a requirement under regulations 36(6)(b) and 36(7) respectively of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 that landlords must supply to tenants, or display at the property, a copy of the current gas safety certificate before the tenant occupies the property. If a landlord fails to comply with these regulations, they cannot subsequently rectify their breach. They will consequently be unable to rely on a Notice served pursuant to Section 21 of the Housing Act (“HA”) 1988 to regain possession of their property. Trecarrell further confirms this stance; however, it is worth noting that both Trecarrell and Claridon are County Court decisions which are not strictly binding, but persuasive in future litigation nonetheless.
In Trecarrell, HHJ Carr considered the reasons for the regulations are self-evident; a tenant needs to be sure that the property they will be occupying is safe and the obligation lies on the landlord to evidence that the property is safe for gas purposes.
It is possible that the case of Trecarrell will be elevated to the Court of Appeal. However, until such time as a higher court decides otherwise, a failure of a landlord to comply with gas safety regulations detailed above will likely be fatal to any later possession claim relying on a Notice served under s21 HA 1988. Consequently, a landlord who has fallen short of their gas safe obligations will likely have to rely on one of the grounds instead contained in Schedule 2 of the HA 1988 in order to regain possession of their property. The difference being that Section 21 gives landlords an automatic right of possession (without having to cite any reasons) once the fixed term of the tenancy has expired. Relying on a ground under Schedule 2, however, means a landlord must have a reasonable ground to want to regain possession; how much notice needs to be given to the tenant will depend upon which ground is being cited. A hearing will be required to determine whether the ground has been correctly made out. It is therefore favourable for landlords to gain possession under s21 where possible, as no reasons have to be given for wanting to regain possession, the process is quicker and, often, a hearing is not required. It therefore imperative that landlords comply with their gas safety obligations if they later want to gain possession under s21.
If you are a landlord seeking advice prior to or during a tenancy, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced and dedicated Landlord and Tenant Team on 01702 338338.