Over the last few weeks, a range of changes have come into effect across the country that all landlords need to comply with.

These come following calls from a range of organisations and think tanks to ensure best practice in the private rented sector, but education has been sparse.

So for many amateur landlords, especially those who don't use agents to manage their properties, it's now more important than ever to keep on top of industry updates and ensure you are fulfilling your responsibilities.

Prescribed Section 21 Notice

Changes under the Deregulation Act 2015, which only apply to new assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) entered into on or after 1st October 2015, determine when a landlord can serve a Section 21 notice in England and the form itself has been amended.

Previously, every landlord, property manager and letting agent could use their own Section 21 notice, but now there is a standard template that everyone has to use in the private rented sector on both fixed term and periodic tenancies. This is to protect tenants from rogue landlords and letting agents who may have included legally unenforceable clauses.

In addition, a Section 21 notice can no longer be served in the first four months of a fixed term tenancy and will now expire after six months.

The new Section 21 notice should only be served and applies to those tenancies that began on or after 1st October 2015 and does not apply to ASTs that become periodic on or after that date.

Retaliatory Evictions

The law is now protecting tenants from retaliatory evictions from landlords who fail to maintain their properties and ignore the complaints from their tenants. The new regulations state that a Section 21 Notice will be invalidated if a tenant has raised a complaint about their accommodation that is then not dealt with within a reasonable time frame.

For example, tenants can now file a complaint with regards to issues or disrepair in the first four months of their tenancy. If landlords are subsequently served an improvement notice from the council, then they are now unable to serve a Section 21 notice for six months from the date the improvement notice is served.

How to Rent Guide

A How to Rent Guide has now been released and must be served at the start of each new tenancy. This document is designed to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities when renting in the private rented sector. It provides a checklist, process information and potential issues to be aware of when renting.

It is important that landlords have a record of serving this document at the start of a new tenancy so make sure you ask the tenant to sign proof or receipt when they accept a rented room or property.

The document does not need to be re-served should the AST roll onto a periodic basis, nor does it need to be re-served if and when the document is updated.

The document can be downloaded here.

Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Alarms

Landlords are now expected to install smoke alarms onto each floor of all rental properties and to keep these well maintained.

Carbon Monoxide alarms are now also required in rooms where there is a solid fuel burning combustion appliance (such as an aga cooker, log burner or coal fire). Although this does not generally apply to landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), professional landlords should consider having a Carbon Monoxide alarm fitted into each of their properties anyway. The cost of installing such an alarm is negligible in comparison to the safety they offer.

Gas Certificates & Energy Performance Certificates

All rental properties need an Energy Performance Certificate, however this does not apply when a house or flat is rented by a number of tenants on individual agreements who have exclusive use of their bedrooms, such as HMOs.

Previously, it was only a legal requirement for letting agents to provide tenants with a copy of Gas Safe certificates, but now all private landlords, or anyone letting to private tenants, must provide them at the start of new tenancies and again when a Section 21 Notice is served.