Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide updated following the recent legislative changes: ensure you are compliant

The Government published an updated version of the How to Rent guide on 10 December, to incorporate recent legislative changes such as the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards, the Tenant Fees Act and electrical checks.

The guide was introduced five years ago, making it mandatory for landlords to provide the latest version when the tenancy starts and on renewal if there’s been an update to the contents. Landlords who fail to do so risk forfeiting the right to rely on a Section 21 eviction notice.

The Government has also updated its How to Rent a Safe Home and How to Let guides, to reflect legal changes since they were last published in 2019.

The ‘How to Rent’ guide is aimed at tenants and landlords in the private rented sector and has been created to help them understand their rights and responsibilities.

It offers helpful advice on what to look out for before renting, living in a rented home, the process at the end of the tenancy and what to do if something goes wrong.

The guide was introduced as part of the changes made by the Deregulation Act of 2015, which stipulates that landlords are required to provide their tenants with the most recent version of the guide at the start of all tenancies that are new or renewed for a new fixed term after 1 October 2015.

It is not required for tenancies that started before 1 October 2015 and which have continued after that date as periodic tenancies. Landlords do not need to re-serve the updated guide to any existing tenants. However, if there’s any doubt about whether someone has the right version of the guide, it’s safest to send an updated copy to all tenants.

Since October 2018, all landlords and letting agents that wish to serve their tenants with a Section 21 or ‘no fault’ eviction must:

  • Ensure that they have issued the latest version of the Government’s ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ guide
  • Provide tenants with the property’s energy performance certificate (unless the property isn’t required to have one)
  • Provide tenants with the current gas safety certificate for the property
  • Provide tenants with the prescribed information relating to the protection of their deposit (which must be protected)
  • Where necessary provide a copy of the licence to all the property’s tenants

Failure to issue tenants with the latest version of the guide means landlords will be unable to serve a Section 21 notice on their tenants.

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Following the tenant fee ban, which involved significant updates to the ‘How to rent’ guide, the Government also published a new version of Form 6a. This was to reflect the fact that, following the introduction of the ban, a landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice if they have taken a prohibited payment from a tenant and that payment has not been refunded in full.

The key changes to the guide in the update following the implementation of the tenant fee ban were:

  • That fees are not permitted, with a link to the further government guidance on the Tenant Fees Act 2019
  • That deposits are capped at five weeks’ rent or equivalent, or six weeks for tenancies with annual rent of over £50,000
  • That deposit replacement products can be offered as an option instead of a deposit, but they must be optional

The guide is subject to regular review and amendments so it is important that you regularly check the Government website for any changes to ensure that you remain compliant. The online version contains useful links that you can click on to get more information.

The updated ‘How to Rent’ guide can be found here.

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