I haven’t really spoken much about this, and rightly so, because it’s as boring as shit- and the whole thing is kinda’ pointless if you ask me. But what can ya’ do?
Despite my ‘blogging fingers’ being put to absolute waste with this subject matter, I feel I should say something, because it’s rather quite important that landlords be made aware of all their requirements, even the ones that are oh-so woefully pointless.
As part of the new Section 21 Legislation for Landlords in England (ZzzzzZzzz) that rolled out on the 1st of October 2015, landlords are now required to serve their tenants with a booklet (How to rent: the checklist for renting in England) if they wish to serve a valid Section 21 Notice (possession notice).
If this all sounds foreign/confusing to you (which would be perfectly understandable), just realise that you need to hand over a ‘renting guide’ to your tenants’ at the beginning of a tenancy.
Of course, that’s on top of having to serve a valid EPC and Gas Safety Certificate, all of which are also part of the new Section 21 Legislation, which is explained in more detail over at the main Section 21 blog post (it’s just as riveting as this blog post).
So what do you need to do?
Landlords in England (yes, just England) should serve a copy of the booklet to tenants’ at the beginning of new tenancies that start on or after October 2015.
You can download the latest copy from here from the Gov website.
some idiot someone out there believes a generic, flimsy booklet on renting will improve/help the lives of tenants, and not end up as lining for kitty litter trays. I personally admire the optimism. It’s refreshing in this day and age, when everything seems to be doom and gloom. Anyways, I digress.
The new Section 21 legislation can be read here, but I’ll copy/paste the bit specific to the “How to rent guide”:
Requirement for landlord to provide prescribed information
- (1) A landlord under an assured shorthold tenancy of a dwelling-house in England, or a person acting on behalf of such a landlord, must give the tenant under that tenancy the information mentioned in paragraph (2).
- (2) The information is the version of the document entitled “How to rent: the checklist for
renting in England”, as published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, that
has effect for the time being.
- (3) The information may be provided to the tenant—
- (a) in hard copy; or
- (b) where the tenant has notified the landlord, or a person acting on behalf of the landlord, of
an e-mail address at which the tenant is content to accept service of notices and other
documents given under or in connection with the tenancy, by e-mail.
- (4) Paragraph (1) does not require a landlord, or person acting on behalf of the landlord, who has
provided the tenant with the document mentioned in paragraph (2) to supply a further copy of the
document each time a different version of that document is published during the tenancy.
- (5) This regulation does not apply—
- (a) where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing; or
- (b) where—
- (i) the tenancy (“the new tenancy”) is a replacement tenancy;
- (ii) the landlord, or a person acting on behalf of the landlord, provided the tenant with the document mentioned in paragraph (2) under an earlier tenancy; and
- (iii) the version of the document provided to the tenant under the earlier tenancy is the same version as the version which is in effect on the first day of the new tenancy.
- (6) In this regulation “replacement tenancy” has the same meaning as in section 21(7) of the Act.
In simple/normal/human terms…
- Serve – you can serve a hardcopy (printed version) or email a digital version where the tenant has supplied an email address. The booklet should be served at the start of the tenancy.
- Up-to-date – the booklet is likely to get updated over time, so it is important to serve the most up-to-date version available at the time of the start of the tenancy. You don’t need to keep providing a copy when new versions are released.
- New tenancies – if a tenancy is renewed (e.g. new contracts signed with the same tenants) there is no need to serve a new copy of the booklet unless a new version has been released- that’s something you’ll need to check at the relevant time.
I’m not sure if a new copy needs to be served if the tenancy rolls into a periodic tenancy (the legislation doesn’t clarify from what I can tell)- does that count as a “new tenancy” (technically, it is)?
It might be worth serving a new copy if the tenancy rolls into a periodic tenancy and a new version is released, just to be diligent.
What if I don’t provide a copy?
From what I’m aware, serving the guide isn’t a legal requirement, so you won’t get prosecuted for not doing it (at the moment, although I can’t imagine it will ever get that serious). However, as said, it is part of the new Section 21 regulations, which means you won’t be able to repossess your property with a Section 21 notice without providing your tenant with the booklet. That’s serious shit which should not be taken lightly.
Being disabled from serving a valid section 21 is going to make it extremely difficult (I’d say near impossible, actually) for landlords to efficiently repossess their property, unless the tenant is willing to surrender the tenancy without any fuss, or if the tenant breaches specific terms of the tenancy (e.g. falls into 2 months’ arrears), which will then allow the landlord to go down the Section 8 route and evict with grounds for possession (that’s really the last route you want to go down).
In short, it’s just better to serve the damn booklet at the beginning of the tenancy and follow all the other section 21 requirements, despite how oh-so pointless some of the requirements may seem.
Rent Guide Release Form
In light of the introduction to the changes to the Section 21 legislation for Landlords in England, it is imperative landlords provide new tenants (and tenants that renew) an up-to-date version of the booklet.
In order to protect myself, I make my tenants sign a release form, which confirms that they have been provided with an up-to-date version. You can download a copy by entering your name and email address below.
It has been argued that sending a copy by email leaves behind a digital footprint in the sentbox/outbox, but I prefer sending a hardcopy of the booklet and getting a signature conformation. That’s just how I roll.
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal advice. Any advice I give is my opinion based on my experience. I will always recommend you seek legal or professional advice on any legal matters!