Dealing with Improvement Notices can be daunting for landlords who are unsure of their obligations or unaware of the consequences for regaining possession of their property. These notices, issued by local authorities under Sections 11 and 12 of the Housing Act 2004, are a result of landlords failing to carry out necessary repair work. Typically addressing category 1 and 2 hazards like dampness, mold, and excessive cold, improvement notices outline the specific hazards and their causes. They also specify the required repairs and set deadlines for completion. Landlords have the option to appeal an improvement notice within 21 days.
Failure to comply with an improvement notice can lead to the local authority carrying out the work and seeking reimbursement from the landlord. Additionally, non-compliance may result in prosecution and/or fines for the landlord.
How does this impact Possession Proceedings?
If a landlord receives an improvement notice, any Section 21 (S21) notice served on the tenant becomes invalid. This means the landlord cannot rely on the S21 notice to initiate possession proceedings. If an improvement notice is served before an S21 notice, the landlord must wait either six months from the date of the improvement notice or until the notice is revoked before serving an S21 notice, with some exceptions such as when the landlord genuinely intends to sell the property. If an S21 notice has already been served and the landlord subsequently receives an improvement notice, the landlord cannot rely on the improvement notice if:
- The tenant previously complained about a housing issue before receiving the S21 notice.
- The landlord failed to address the complaint within 14 days.
- The tenant complained to the council, resulting in the council serving an improvement notice or emergency works notice.
What should a landlord do if they are served with a local authority letter or an Improvement Notice?
Landlords should promptly address any known disrepair issues at the property. If the local authority conducts an inspection and sends a letter requesting a response within 14 days, landlords should ensure they reply within the given timeframe, addressing all the issues raised. If repairs are required, landlords should arrange for them to be carried out. If the tenant hinders access for repairs, the landlord should inform the local authority accordingly. Communicating such hindrances to the local authority may decrease the likelihood of an improvement notice being issued.
If you have any queries in respect of Improvement Notices, or local authority notices, you can contact our legal partners Woodstock Legal Services by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.