Serving the tenant with a copy of the latest How to Rent Guide 2021 (last updated 10th December 2020), a booklet issued by government detailing a checklist for tenants when renting, is one of the very first actions you must take before renting out a house in England.
- What is the How to Rent guide?
- What version of the How to Rent guide do I need to give my tenants?
- Can I email a copy of the How to Rent guide to my tenant?
- What happens if I don’t issue the How to Rent guide?
- How does the How to Rent guide benefit landlords?
- What other documents do I need
What is the How to Rent guide?
The How to Rent guide is an online government document providing advice to current and prospective tenants on the rental process in England and Wales. It details their rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as the legal obligations of landlords.
Every landlord must ensure their tenant(s) have received a copy of the How to Rent guide at the beginning of their tenancy.
Which version of the How to Rent guide do I need to give to my tenants?
The latest version of the How to Rent guide was issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 10th December 2020.
The main updates to the 2020 How to Rent guide are as follows:
- Further explanation of deposit caps and deposit protection, including details of the maximum deposit amount of 5 weeks for annual rents under £50,000 and 6 weeks for those above
- New "permitted fees" section containing a full list of permitted and banned fees under the Tenant Fees Act
- Details of limitations on default fee for late payment of rent, capped at 3% above Bank of England base rates by Tenant Fees Act
- Additional sentence to clarify that landlords and lettings agents cannot rely on giving notice under Section 21 if they have not repaid any unlawful fees or deposits they have charged
Tenant Rights and Advice
- Advise to tenant to find out whether the landlord is the freeholder, leaseholder or the owner of the property, and whether their mortgage lender (if they have one) has given consent to let
- Details of two types of right to rent checks; a manual document-based check or via the Home Office online checking service
- Advise to tenants to ask their landlord or agent if they have signed a Code of Practice
- Recommendation to purchase contents insurance
- Advice to consider installing a smart meter
- Highlighting tenant's right to report landlord's refusal to fix unsafe repairs to Trading Standards
- Explanation of tenant's right to take their landlord to court if the property is not fit for human habitation and they refuse to make changes
- New section explaining Rent Repayment Orders
- Further information regarding tenancy length, including minimum stay of 6 months and the possibility of weekly or monthly ASTs
- Advice that if a tenant is unhappy with their tenancy agreement, they can walk away from unfair terms without forfeiting their holding deposit
- Highlighting that failure to report need for repairs to landlords can be a breach of tenancy agreement
- Additional sentence highlighting the requirement of having at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey
- New section on selective licensing schemes
- Explanation of the landlord's obligation to provide an address in England or Wales to accept written service of notice and rent is not lawfully due is the information is not given
- Details of the requirement for all private rented properties to have an energy performance rating of E or above as of April 2020
- Additional information on the mandatory electrical inspections and EICRs, applying to new tenancies from July 2020 and all existing tenancies from April 2021
- Highlighting the landlord's requirement to arrange five-yearly electrical safety checks
- Specific emphasis on landlord or agent's obligation to seek permission to access the property alongside 24 hours' notice
- Specific details on a landlord's responsibility to ensure all products, fixtures and fittings are safe and not subject to product recall, as well as ensuring any blinds do not have looped cords and are child-safe
Ending a Tenancy
- Additional sentence on the landlord's requirement to obtain a court order to legally remove a tenant from their property
- Emphasis on the correct period of notice, which varies depending on the type of tenancy and grounds for eviction
- Advice to tenants to immediately read and act upon any notice served to them by their landlord or to contact Shelter or Citizen's Advice if they are unsure on what to do
- Explanation on how tenants can end their tenancy and what to do if they want to leave the property earlier than agreed
- Instructions to return all sets of keys provided
Can I email a copy of the How to Rent Guide to my tenant?
Although many people still like to receive a good old-fashioned printed copy of the How to Rent guide, for those who have fully embraced new technology it's probably easier for you to email them a digital copy. It’s also best practice to provide them with the direct web link, so they always have access to the latest updated version.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will not be publishing hard copies of the How to Rent booklet, so if a tenant asks for the guide in this format you will have to print it out yourself.
Landlords already have a mountain of paperwork to deal with: tenancy agreements, gas safety certificates, electrical condition reports and energy performance certificates - the list goes on. However, just because the How to Rent guide is free to download, doesn't mean there is reason to underestimate its importance.
What happens if I don't issue the How to Rent guide?
If you don't issue the 2020 How to Rent booklet, it could land you in a whole lot of trouble. Under the Section 21 Legislation for Landlords in England, you won’t be able to repossess your property (heaven forbid it should get to that stage) with a Section 21 notice if you haven't provided your tenant with the How to Rent guide.
To avoid any potential trouble, all landlords should issue the latest How to Rent guide to their tenants at the beginning of any new tenancy. As an additional safeguard, ask your tenant to sign a release form, confirming that they have been provided with an up-to-date version.
More updates are bound to come in 2021, but the good thing is that you are not required to supply a further copy of the document each time a new version is published during the tenancy.
At LettingaProperty.com, we issue the How to Rent guide to your tenants on your behalf, so you'll never have to worry about it. Find out more.
The How to Rent guide makes a pretty good landlord's checklist too!
We all know that when renting out a property, the requirement for landlords to provide prescribed information and associated legal documents is a complicated affair. So much so that some pundits believe there is a strong case for simplification by either consolidating housing legislation now or by undertaking a review of the Law Commission’s 2006 Report.
Who knows what might happen in 2021, but the point about the here-and-now – whether you're letting a house, apartment or bedsit – that you must make sure everything is in order. This includes:
- Making sure you have adequate landlord's insurance
- Checking all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working
- Ensuring the property has a valid gas safety certificate, EICR and EPC
While the tenant may probably want to know whether you belong to an accreditation scheme, equally you will want the tenant to confirm his identity and immigration status (through Right to Rent checks) credit history and employment status via a comprehensive tenant referencing check.
Make sure the tenant knows who is responsible for bills such as gas, water, electricity and council tax and that they understand how long the tenancy is for. Some people may want the security of a really long let so make sure that this is agreed at the outset as well.
In any case, the tenancy agreement should say how much notice must be given if you want to end the agreement. Landlords have a legal requirement to give a tenant the correct amount of notice – and vice-versa.
What other documents do I need?
Before the tenant moves in, a tenancy agreement should be signed by both you and your tenant(s).
Regardless of whether the property is furnished or unfurnished, don’t forget to produce an inventory – this will make things a lot easier if there is any dispute at the end of the tenancy. You should provide your tenant with:
- A copy of the annual Gas Safety Certificate
- A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Details of where their deposit is being stored
- A copy of the Electrical Installation Condition Report
- A copy of the property Inventory and Schedule of Condition
Thankfully, we don’t know of any landlords today who are like Leonard Rossiter’s miserly Rigsby in the 70s TV sit-com Rising Damp, but it goes without saying that your tenant should pay the rent on time. Point out that failure to do so could cost them their accommodation – and let them know that lodgers or sub-letting (Rent to Rent) are not allowed unless you give express permission.
Unlike Rigsby, you won’t be able to walk into your tenant’s accommodation just whenever you want. So, make sure you give at least 24 hours' notice before visiting the property.
From the outset, let them know where you stand on children, smoking, pets – and even things such as keeping a bike! After all, one man’s recreational pursuit can be another man’s torture!
If you want further advice on anything to do with renting a property, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. Legislation can be a minefield, particularly if you are becoming a landlord for the first time and we're always here to help.
Version Update History of the How to Rent Guide:
10 December 2020 - Updates COVID-19, Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 and Tenant Fees Act
31 May 2019 - the guide is updated following the Tenant Fees Act 2019 9 July 2018 - The title of the guide was amended to 'How to rent: the checklist for renting in England'.
26 June 2018 - Added updated guide to website
17 January 2018 - Removed reference to the 'London Rental Standard' in the renting 'Direct from the landlord' section.
1 February 2016 - Updated the How to Rent guide
1 October 2015 - Updated with the latest edition of this guide
25 September 2014 - Added updated guide.
11 June 2014 - Added information about Acrobat Reader download
10 June 2014 - How to Rent guide first published.