Serving the tenant with a copy of the latest How to Rent Guide 2019 (Last updated 31 May 2019), a booklet which is 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.
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 (formerly known as the DCLG) on 31st May 2019.
Most noticeably, the main updates to the latest version of the guide are:
- References made throughout the guide to the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which came into force on the 1st of June 2019. Landlords and Letting Agents are no longer able to charge 'prohibitive fees' to tenants.
- Letting agents must belong to a Client Money Protection scheme if they handle tenants rent and deposits.
- Deposits have been capped to no more than 5 weeks’ worth of rent (where annual rent is less than £50,000) or 6 weeks’ rent (where annual rent is more than £50,000).
- The Energy Performance of a property let after 1 April 2018 must have an EPC rating of at least ‘E’ (unless a valid exemption applies).
- A landlord or agent can take a holding deposit from a tenant to reserve a property whilst reference checks and preparation for a tenancy agreement are undertaken. They cannot ask a tenant for more than one week’s rent as a holding deposit (this cap is based on the total agreed rent for the property).
Can I email a copy of the How to Rent Guide to the Tenant?
Although lots of people still like to receive a good old-fashioned printed copy of the How to Rent booklet, for those who have fully embraced new technology then it is probably easier for you to email them a digital version of the How to Rent guide, that’s if the tenant has supplied you with an email address. It’s probably best viewed online, anyway, as it contains hyperlinks.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government itself won’t be publishing the How to Rent booklet in ‘hard copy’ so if a tenant asks for the guide in this format you will have to print it out yourself.
I know you’ve got a mountain of paperwork to deal with anyway, supplying tenants with necessary items such as a written tenancy agreement, gas safety certificate (if there’s a gas installation, of course), an energy performance certificate and a record of any electrical inspections and securing protection in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme in respect of any deposits made by tenants, but don’t under-estimate the importance of issuing that little How to Rent guide.
What happens if I don't issue the guide?
If you don't issue the 2019 How to Rent booklet, it could land you in a whole lot of trouble. Not that you could end up in jail – but under the new Section 21 Legislation for Landlords in England, which came into effect almost two years ago, you won’t be able to repossess your property (heaven forbid it should get to that stage) with a Section 21 notice without providing your tenant with the booklet.
So head off any potential trouble by just issuing the How to Rent guide for tenants at the beginning of any new tenancy. And as another safeguard ask the tenant to sign a release form, confirming that they have been provided with an up-to-date version.
Up-dates will abound in the future I am sure but one 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.
The How to Rent guide makes a pretty good landlords' checklist too!
We all know that when renting out a property, the requirement for landlords to provide prescribed information and associated legal documents, can often be 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 the future, but the point about the here-and-now is to make sure before you start letting your property – whether it is a house, apartment or bedsit – that everything is in order. That includes making sure the building is insured with adequate landlords insurance and that the structure and exterior of the property is maintained, while also ensuring that items such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms (in rooms using solid fuels) are fitted.
And 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 proper notice – and vice-versa. One month’s notice is typical if a tenant signals he wants to move on.
What other documents do I need?
Once the tenant moves in, however, he (or she) will want a written tenancy agreement, so make sure you can provide one. Regardless of whether the property is furnished or unfurnished, don’t forget to produce an inventory as well – this will make the situation a lot easier if there is any dispute at the end of the tenancy. And it’s probably as well to take photographs of any items you may want to record in particular – how easy is that with today’s digital cameras or smart phones? Finally, you may want to read up about GDPR for landlords too.
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 practically without saying that you must impress upon the tenant that they must 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.
And unlike Rigsby you won’t be able to walk into your tenant’s accommodation just whenever you want. So give at least 24 hours notice of a visit if you want to check on things like repairs.
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!
But if you want further advice on anything to do with renting a property, tenancy agreements or how to find tenants fast, 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 you are navigating landlord registration, mandatory and selective licensing.
Version Update History of the How to Rent Guide:
31 May 2019 - the guide is updated following the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
9 July 2018 - On 6 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.