Government launches new ‘how to’ guide series for tenants, landlords and letting agents

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) updated the mandatory “How to rent” guide and the ‘How to rent a safe home’ guide on the 26th of June to reflect recent legislative changes. In addition to this, two further ‘how to’ guides have been produced to help support tenants, landlords and letting agents within the private rented sector.

These guides form a key part of government’s continuing crackdown on poor practice by a minority of landlords and agents in the private rented and leasehold sectors.

The Deregulation Act that came into force in 2015, dictates that the ‘How to rent’ guide must be issued to tenants at the start of a new tenancy or at the renewal of the current tenancy. Failure to issue this means landlords will be unable to serve a section 21 notice on their tenants.

What has been changed?

The aim of the new ‘How to’ guides is to help tenants, landlords and letting agents understand their rights in the industry and provide comprehensive guidance. In addition, the government hopes this will help raise standards across the industry as a whole.

The ‘how to’ guides have been produced in conjunction with groups, professional bodies and local housing authorities who are active in the sector to ensure that there is adequate representation for everyone involved.

The  ‘How to’ guide

How to rent

The how to rent guide was last amended on the 17th January 2018 where the reference to the ‘London Rental Standard’ was removed. In the latest update the guide provides tenants with a step-by-step process for renting with additional advice on how to challenge poor practice and provides clarification on landlords’ legal obligations.

Landlords are legally required to provide their tenants with this document.

How to rent a safe home

This guide provides existing and prospective tenants with information on how to rent a safe home and identify any unsafe conditions in their rental property. This includes hazards such as damp and mould, gas and electrical safety and the process tenants should follow in order to report dangerous conditions.

How to let

This new guide is aimed at helping landlords to understand the legal obligations that come with renting out a property, as well as ‘best practice’ advice to ensure they are a model landlord. Key points include;

  • How to protect the tenants’ deposit
  • Importance of carrying out gas safety inspections
  • Instillation of smoke and carbon dioxide alarms in the property.

How to lease

The final ‘How to’ guide is aimed at helping leaseholders understand their unique rights and responsibilities, that may differ from others within the industry. For example, as the government suggest, a managing agent or landlord could be responsible for running a leaseholder’s block or estate – but the leaseholder does have a say in how they do it.

The Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP said:

“Every day across the country thousands of people move house – from young people leaving home for the first time, to those relocating after years in the same property.

“Whatever the circumstance, we want to ensure renters, landlords and leaseholders are armed with information so they know their rights and responsibilities and can challenge poor behaviour.

“The guides will be reviewed in the light of any new legislation to ensure tenants, landlords and leaseholders are supplied with up-to-date information.”

For more information visit the government website here.

How to comply

It is extremely important that landlords provide all new tenants with the updated guide and any existing tenants if renewing a tenancy. Landlords, however, are not required to re-serve the updated guide to existing tenants.

The ‘How to rent’ guide is subject to regular review and amendments and so it is important to regularly check the government website for any changes to remain compliant.

You can download the new guides here.

Can we expect further changes?

The rental sector is currently undergoing a period of great change. As a result, the government have made several proposals they hope will improve and provide security within the sector in the future.

Key announcements include:

  1. Proposed longer term tenancies to provide greater security to tenants. Read more about this here.
  2. Intention to require private landlords to belong to a redress scheme
  3. All letting agents required to be regulated and belong to a client money protection scheme in order to practice

Keep up to date on the latest industry news from mydeposits here and from Hamilton Fraser here.

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