As a landlord, you have a whole raft of responsibilities and obligations when letting your property. These include giving a copy of the government publication How to Rent to any new tenant. It is not an optional part of any welcome pack but something you must give to your tenants, warns official advice.
How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England
The How to Rent guide is a relatively short document of eight pages and describes the principles of an assured shorthold tenancy, which is the most common type of rental agreement between landlords and tenants.
The current version was published in January 2018 but is periodically updated, and you need to ensure that you provide any new tenant with the most up to date copy – either as a hard copy or by emailing it to them.
It outlines the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant and advises the latter about questions to ask before agreeing to a tenancy or if things begin to wrong in the relationship with the landlord.
Why is it an important document?
It is clearly helpful if your tenants understand the broad principles of the contract that exists between you and them when they rent your property. The Guide helps to provide that service.
But, from the landlord’s point of view, the Guide’s importance lies in more than the information it provides to your tenants. Unless you have met the requirement to give a copy of it – in hard copy or electronically – to your tenant, you may not be able to recover your property by serving a possession notice under the current Section 21 legislation of the Deregulation Act 2015.
Section 21, which came into force on the 1st of October 2015, sets out the process by which a landlord may repossess a let property by serving a notice to quit. Unless your tenant has agreed to leave the property through his own choice, therefore, a Section 21 notice is necessary – and, for that to be served, you need to have previously given the tenant a copy of the How to Rent guide.
Letting agents Arla, have published a brief explanation of the way in which Section 21 notices work.
At any time after four months of a new tenancy, a landlord may issue a notice to quit (unless the tenancy agreement is for an indefinite period, in which case a period of notice of up to six months may be required).
In order to issue a repossession notice under Section 21, you need to have provided your tenant not only with a copy of the How to Rent guide, but also copies of the annual Gas Safety Certificate, Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and details about the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.
Even if you have complied with these provisions, you may not use the Section 21 procedures to evict a tenant because they have demanded repairs which you have avoided making or because there is a requirement for the property to be licensed by the local authority and you have failed to secure such a licence.