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Hot Topic Highlight - Government How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England Guide



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What is this week's blog about?


In this week’s blog, we take a look at the Government’s new version of the How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England guide. A copy can be downloaded here.


Essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates on the Residential pathway, particularly those undertaking the Leasing/Letting competency.


What is the How to Rent guide?


The guide is aimed at tenants privately renting a home from a landlord or through a letting agency in England.


Who does the guide not apply to?


It does not apply to lodgers, tenants renting via a licence (e.g. property guardians) or tenants renting a property which is not their main or only home.


How should the guide be used?


When a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) commences, the landlord or letting agent should give a copy of the guide to the tenant. This forms part of the prescribed information a landlord or letting agent must provide to a tenant at the commencement of a letting.


The guide must be provided in printed form, or, if the tenant agrees, via email as a PDF attachment.


There is no need for the guide to be given to a tenant upon renewal of an AST, unless the terms of the agreement have been amended.


What other prescribed information must a tenant be served with at the commencement of an AST?


The other prescribed information includes:

  • Gas safety certificate;

  • Deposit paperwork;

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC);

  • Electrical inspection records;

  • Evidence that any smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order at the start of the tenancy.


If the prescribed information is not served on a tenant at the commencement of a tenancy, then a landlord will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice to regain possession.


When does the latest edition take effect from?


The latest edition took effect from 10 December 2020. It updates the previous edition which was published in July 2019.


What changes have been made?


The 2020 version of the How to Rent guide includes the following changes:

  • Impact of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 relating to deposit caps and permitted fees that a landlord or letting agent can charge;

  • Requirements of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 to have the property electrics checked at least every five years by a qualified person. This will also apply to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021;

  • Reference to the Government consultation on plans to end ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions;

  • Reference to Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) as a method of enforcement in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).


The guide should also be read in the context of existing Covid-19 guidance for renting. This is available on the Government website.


How is the guide structured?


The How to Rent guide is structured into eight sections:

  1. ASTs – basic introduction to what an AST is and the responsibilities of both parties, together with the importance of the guide;

  2. Before you start – this includes key questions for tenants to ask landlords, including issues such as letting fees, deposits, tenancy duration, affordability, entitlement to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, Right to Rent checks and guarantors. It also discusses ways to rent property, either direct from a landlord or via a letting agent;

  3. Looking for your new home – this refers to things that tenants should check, such as deposits (cap and protection), tenancy duration, smoking, pets, bills, fixtures and fittings, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, safety, fitness for human habitation, landlord identity, permitted fees and licensing (particularly relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation, HMOs);

  4. When you’ve found a place – this encourages tenants to check paperwork, including the tenancy agreement, inventory, meter readings and contact details. It also outlines the prescribed information and other documents a landlord should provide to a tenant;

  5. Living in your rented home – this provides guidance on payment of rent and bills, looking after the property, respecting neighbours, not subletting without consent and other issues relating to occupation of the property by the tenant. It also outlines a landlord’s responsibilities, such as maintenance, gas and electrical safety checks, notice for inspections, licensing, insurance and health & safety;

  6. At the end of the fixed period – this explains what happens at the end of the original AST, particularly in relation to renewal, rent review and termination of the tenancy. It explains what a tenant or landlord must do to terminate the tenancy, information that needs to be served and actions that need to be undertaken;

  7. If things go wrong – this explains what tenants can do if they have a complaint or problem relating to their occupation of the property;

  8. Further sources of information – this provides tenants with useful links to various documents and Government guidance on issues raised within the How to Rent guide.



How can we help?


Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.


N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.