Landlords In England Must Serve The “How To Rent” Guide To Tenants

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.

How to rent: the checklist for renting in England

How to rent: the checklist for renting in England

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.

Apparently 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
3.—

  • (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.









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12 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Steve 17th May, 2016 @ 20:54

Thank you, didn't even know about this!

1
Guest Avatar
Lesley 30th June, 2016 @ 12:19

Thank you for time and really good advice.

2
Guest Avatar
Paul 1st November, 2016 @ 13:10

Can you clarify the part of 'to serve' the tenant with the how to rent guide. Midway down page 5 of how to rent guide it says the Landlord must provide you with a copy of this guide, that would imply a hard copy not an emailed link? I realise that the AST you are quoting from can be written to read 'anything' so which is right? The government booklet or the AST which can have any rules, within reason, written into it?

3
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 1st November, 2016 @ 16:31

@Paul,

From my understanding, you can either download the PDF and email it directly as an attachment (NOT a link) to the tenant, or print a physical copy and hand it to them.

Of course, with the email method, you have the benefit of a digital footprint.

4
Guest Avatar
Vicki 3rd February, 2017 @ 12:32

I have tenants already on periodic tenancies and I didn't give them the booklet at the beginning. Do I need to ask them to sign new contracts or can I give it retrospectively and be able to issue a section 21 if needed later?

5
Guest Avatar
Julian Moore 25th April, 2017 @ 15:19

Hello.
Where can I obtain a hard copy of this booklet, as I have a number of let properties, and downloading is not really viable option with the number of tenants I have.

Thank you JM

6
Guest Avatar
eric 25th April, 2017 @ 15:56

The only way is to download it and then print out copies. Alternatively just email a copy to the tenants.

7
Guest Avatar
Lisa 18th June, 2017 @ 00:09

I have a Tenant now on periodic and did not give them a "How to Rent" booklet, can I email them one now? Prior to serving a section 21 notice?

8
Guest Avatar
C.W 18th June, 2017 @ 12:21

You can, but sending it just prior to serving a Section 21 almost seems pointless, in my honest opinion...

9
Guest Avatar
Simon Pambin 18th June, 2017 @ 20:53

The point is you can't serve a valid Section 21 without it these days (under most circumstances).

10
Guest Avatar
C.W 18th June, 2017 @ 23:25

But you're meant to serve it at the beginning. If the tenant disputes the notice (which I'm assuming is what the landlord is concerned about i.e. she wants to serve a valid notice) and it goes to court, the Judge will see that the landlord provided the booklet just before serving notice.

You think that will help?

Still seems pointless and it seems like it would do more harm than good. It's like doing a gas safe check on the day the tenant vacates.

11
Guest Avatar
Simon Pambin 19th June, 2017 @ 12:37

It'll help a lot more than not providing it at all:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/50/section/21B

There's nothing wrong with saying something like, "I intend to serve a Section 21 in the near future. Please find attached another copy of the How To Rent guide, which sets out your rights."

12

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