What is it and why is it a legal requirement?
It is a legal requirement for landlords and letting agents in England to provide tenants with an up-to-date copy of the government’s How to rent guide at the beginning of a tenancy. This article explains what is in this guide and why it’s important.
What is the How to rent guide?
The ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ guide is a document published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on the official government website. It is regularly updated to reflect changes in the law and the housing sector. The latest version (at the time of writing) can be found here.
The document is a checklist of all the key information which a new tenant needs to be aware of before they start renting. This information includes advice on navigating the private rental market and an explanation of an assured shorthold tenancy i.e. the default type of residential tenancy in England and Wales. The guide explains the rights and duties of both landlord and tenant both at the start and throughout the term of the tenancy.
There tends to be a lot of uncertainty about what happens at the end of the fixed term of a tenancy, since there are several options available to the parties: extension, renewal, or termination. If the parties do nothing, the law makes up for it by creating a statutory periodic tenancy. The ‘How to rent’ guide gives a short summary of this, as well as advice on how tenants should go about moving out of their rental property in order to maximise their chances of getting their full deposit back.
A very valuable aspect of the ‘How to rent’ guide is the breadth of resources it signposts renters to, ranging from relevant legislation to housing charities. If a renter faces a problem with their tenancy, the guide aims to help direct them to the right area of law or organisation which can be of help.
Why is the How to Rent guide a legal requirement?
While it was first published on 10 June 2014, it has only been a legal requirement to provide tenants with a copy of the ‘How to rent’ guide since the passing of the Deregulation Act 2015. Under section 39 of this Act and regulation 3 of The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015, landlords and letting agents need to serve this guide for all tenancies created or renewed from 1 October 2015 onwards.
The consequence of not serving a tenant with this guide is that the landlord will be in breach of the law, and thus unable to exercise some of their other rights such as serving a section 21 notice. Also known as a no-fault eviction, section 21 notices are widely used by landlords who want to regain possession of their rental property for reasons which are no fault of the tenants. The cost of not being able to serve a section 21 notice has been reported as being rather “hefty” for landlords.
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How to serve a ‘How to rent guide’?
Platforms such as Legislate offer landlords and letting agents with the ability to send the ‘How to rent’ guide in the form of a letter. A key benefit of serving it this way is that both parties have easy access to the document, as well as clear proof that it was sent and indeed received. This avoids the hassle associated with having a tenant sign a paper acknowledging that they have received it when landlords opt to deliver it in other ways. Further, since the guide can be downloaded and opened at any time, it is easy for tenants to come back to it at any point throughout the tenancy to answer any questions that may have arisen. You can read a tutorial.
Legislate is an end-to-end contracting platform which allows landlords and letting agents to create and manage various tenancy-related documents such as tenancy agreements, ‘How to rent’ letters, and section 21 notices. If you are interested in learning more about Legislate, book a demo, sign up or receive an invite from an existing member.
The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.