Residential landlords must make sure their new tenant pack is up to date or face difficulties with removing tenants.
On 10 December 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ("MHCLG") updated the "How to Rent" Guide. The updated version can be found here.
Importance of the "How to Rent" guide
By way of a reminder, all private residential landlords (or their agents) must give tenants a copy of the Government's "How to Rent: the Checklist for Renting in England" guide under the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015. before the tenancy commences. Failure to do so could prevent a landlord from evicting their tenant in circumstances where the tenant is otherwise complying with the tenancy agreement. This could be particularly problematic if a landlord simply needs the property back to sell or for its own use.
Who should be given the updated "How to Rent" guide?
All new residential tenancies entered into on or after 10 December 2020 should be given the updated guide.
If you have an existing tenancy and have served the most up to date version of the "How to Rent" guide at the time the tenancy was entered into, there is no need to give subsequent updated versions of the guide to the tenant.
The exception to this is if the tenancy has been renewed on or after 10 December, in which case the most recent "How to Rent" guide will need to be given to the tenant. Renewal includes granting a new AST to an existing tenant, or where a tenant remains in occupation when their current AST expires (a statutory periodic tenancy).
One crucial change is that the Guide now contains a new requirement that a landlord must provide proof to the tenant that the property electrics are safe. Under the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, landlords must ensure that their rented properties have their electrics checked at least every five years by a qualified person. This applied to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and will apply to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
Other amendments in the updated "How to Rent" guide include:
- The inclusion of a warning that the Government is planning to scrap the section 21 procedure by changing the legislation;
- The fees that are permitted to be charged to a tenant are set out in more detail on page 7, as well as examples of fees that are now illegal since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. Examples of illegal fees include: viewing fees, tenancy set up fees, check out fees or third party fees; and
- The inclusion of the fact that from April 2020, all homes to be privately rented must have an EPC energy efficiency Band E rating or above unless a valid exemption applies.
By way of additional information, there is also an updated 'Right to Rent' guide available for landlords and tenants, designed to assist with ascertaining a tenant's right to rent in the UK which may be useful if you are unsure about the checks you are required to undertake as a landlord or if you have difficulties in obtaining documentation from tenants. The link to the November 2020 Right to Rent guide can be found here.
If you need any advice in relation to any residential tenancy issues, including serving notices to recover possession or issuing possession proceedings against a residential tenant, then please contact Lydia Robinson.