The case of Trecarrell House Ltd v Patricia Rouncefield- Residential landlords’ ability to use no fault eviction procedure after late service of gas safety certificate
The recent majority ruling of the Court of Appeal in the case of Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield is a welcome decision for landlords.
The Gas Safety Regulations 1998 impose obligations on residential landlords to manage the risks associated with gas appliances. In the case of Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield, the Court of Appeal was asked to consider the relationship between the Gas Safety Regulations 1998, and s.21 of the Housing Act 1988. S.21 provides landlords with a no-fault ground for possession against an assured shorthold tenant, if the landlord is in breach of a requirement contained in s.21A. One of the requirements referred to in s.21A is reg.36(6) of the Gas Safety Regulations 1998. Regulation 36(6) operates to ensure a landlord has provided a current gas safety certificate to a tenant prior to occupation (36(6)(b)). The landlord should also provide a copy of any subsequent certificate to the tenant within 28 days of inspection (36(6)(a)).
Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield concerned an assured shorthold tenancy, granted to Rouncefield, the tenant, in February 2017. Upon the commencement of the tenancy, Ms Rouncefield was not provided with a gas safety certificate by her landlord, Trecarrell House Ltd. In November 2017, she was provided with the relevant certificate, which was dated January 2017. In May 2018, Ms Rouncefield was served notice under s.21, and Trecarrell House issued possession proceedings. The Tenant defended this notice on the basis that she had not been provided with a gas safety certificate prior to taking occupation. Ms Rouncefield claimed this left the landlord in breach of regulation 36, thus unable to serve notice on the basis of s.21. The Deputy District Judge dismissed Ms Rouncefield’s defence and granted the possession order. However on appeal, the Circuit Judge allowed the defence, on the basis that the landlord could not remedy the failure to provide the gas safety certificate before occupation.
When the matter progressed to the Court of Appeal, the Court concluded that the Landlord’s late compliance to provide the Tenant with a copy of the most recent gas safety certificate, pursuant to reg.36(6)(b)) was not sufficient to prevent the Landlord from providing the Tenant with s.21 notice. The Court held that the correct interpretation of the relationship between the Regulations and s.21A was that the time period for presenting a tenant with a certificate contained within reg.36(6)(a-b) did not apply. So long as a landlord has served a copy of the most recent gas safety certificate on the tenant before they serve the s.21 notice, possession proceedings can go ahead.
The Court of Appeal also issued an additional reminder to landlords regarding the importance of providing tenants with a copy of the most recent gas safety certificate before occupation, or within 28 days of inspection. A landlord’s failure to fulfil their obligations under the Gas Safety Regulations 1998 is a criminal offence. However, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which may have caused a delay in gas safety tests going ahead, the Court’s decision in Trecarrell House v Rouncefield will likely provide some relief for landlords.
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