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Show me the proof! Evidencing service of documents on tenants

Posted on 20th April 2023 in Dispute Resolution

Posted by

Martina Wise

Show me the proof! Evidencing service of documents on tenants

Being a landlord is a tricky business. There are so many legislative hoops to jump through that it may feel like the law is trying to catch them out.

The importance of complying with all that is required becomes most stark when trying to obtain possession of a property. To serve a valid section 21 (‘no fault’) notice, landlords need to have obtained and served certain documents on their tenant, including an EPC, gas safety certificates, and the How to Rent guide. It is also necessary to ensure that any deposit taken from a tenant is protected within 30 days of receipt and that certain deposit documentation (what is known as prescribed information) is also served on the tenant.

But, even if a landlord has complied with all legislative requirements, they also need to prove this compliance before a court will award possession. How is a landlord meant to prove that they sent these documents to the tenant in the post, or delivered them by hand – particularly if these documents were served years ago? It is easy to see how even the most diligent of landlords can get caught out by the need to evidence service.

The message to landlords is a simple one: get proof that the tenant has received every document sent to them before and during the tenancy. It doesn’t matter what form the proof takes – a signed receipt if delivering by hand, an email (ensuring that it has been agreed that the tenant will accept service of documents via email), or a recorded delivery service – there just needs to be evidence that the tenant has clearly received the documents. And remember to keep a copy of the document that has been provided to the tenant alongside the proof.

One particular problem that has cropped up a lot recently is the inability of landlords to prove service of gas safety certificates. Gas engineers often send the original report to the landlord and just leave a copy with the tenant or at the property once the check is complete.

Of course, there is no easy way for the landlord to prove that the tenant has received a copy of the certificate. We would therefore strongly encourage landlords to either (i) send a copy of the gas safety certificate to the tenant by recorded delivery or (ii) request that the gas safety engineer ask the tenant to sign a receipt confirming that they have received a copy of the certificate.

Whilst it is possible to re-serve all of the requisite documents before serving a section 21 notice on a tenant, this adds more time to the process. Prevention is better than cure so we would strongly encourage all landlords to remember the importance of evidencing service. 

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