When managing a rented property there are some documents which I call ‘critical documents’. These are essential documents which are either required by law or which you may want to rely on later.
It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, if you are a landlord or letting agent serving these documents, that you are in a position to prove that they have been served. Otherwise, if service is disputed by your tenant – you may lose out.
In court proceedings – if you can’t prove something, it’s like it never happened.
So what are these documents and how can you prove service of them?
The Critical Documents
These are the main ones. There may be others.
- Gas Safety Certificates
- Energy Performance Certificates
- Tenancy Deposit Prescribed Information
- Eviction Notices –
- Section 21 / form 6a
- Section 8 notice
- Notices to Quit (for tenancies which are not ASTs)
- Ground 1 notices (normally incorporated into the tenancy agreement)
- Notice of Increase of Rent (form 4)
Of these, perhaps the most critical are Gas Safety Certificates, the Prescribed information and maybe EPCs – as there are time limits in law within which they must be served. Although you won’t want to have your claim for eviction thrown out of court because you can’t prove service of your section 21 notice.
How to prove service
The best way is to get the tenant to sign and date a copy of the document (make sure they put the right date).
Other methods are:
- Service by hand with an independent witness (such as a neighbour)
- Signed receipt of a recorded delivery document (available online – but be careful as sometimes tenants refuse to accept delivery)
- A letter or email from the tenant confirming receipt
Be careful about service by ordinary post. The Judge may accept a certificate of posting but note that this only certifies posting, not receipt of the document.
If you don’t have any of these – then corroborative evidence such as an internal memo recording service, and proof that the document was available at the time of alleged service (so why would you not have served it?) may also be sufficient to persuade the Judge to believe you rather than the tenant.
But don’t count on it. ALWAYS take care to retain good evidence to prove service whenever you serve one of these critical documents.
I advised a lady only the other day, who was trying to evict her tenant under section 21,. Her tenant, who has admitted to her that she is going to remain in the property as long as possible, has claimed that she never received the gas safety certificate – and that the section 21 notice is therefore invalid.
The case has been set down for a hearing of one hour for this issue to be determined.
My lady has a checklist which she used at the time which shows a tick for the gas safety certificate – but wouldn’t it have been better if she had got the tenant to sign this at the time? Then there could be no argument.
Even if she wins at the hearing (and I suspect she will) my lady has lost valuable time and money by this delay.
Make sure that this never happens to you.