Government updates to the 'How to Rent' guide

Government updates to the ‘How to Rent’ guide

Micro-amendments / Macro-implications:  

The government updated the “How to Rent” guide on 17/01/2018. You can find a link to the new guide here:

Landlords will be well aware by now of the requirement to provide the current version of the guide to their tenant(s) at the beginning of a tenancy (or an existing tenancy which was renewed post implementation).

Once a copy of the guide has been provided, there is no general requirement to provide a further copy on renewal tenancies unless it has changed. Where the guide has changed during the span of a tenancy, the updated version must be provided to the tenant at the start of any renewal tenancy.

This includes any statutory periodic tenancy arising at the end of a fixed term.

If a renewal tenancy commences, or a statutory periodic tenancy arises, after 17/01/2018, the January 2018 version of the guide will also need to be provided. A failure to do so will render any notice given under s21 Housing Act 1988 defective, and in those circumstances, a claim for possession is likely to fail.

As a number of major changes are expected later this year, it is disappointing that the government has not waited a few months to include all of these in one revision, saving landlords the administrative headache of dealing with repeated iterations.

Aside from removing reference to the London Rental Standard (which was abandoned back in May 2017), at first glance the guide’s only other change is to introduce a name change as the “Department for Communities & Local Government” has been renamed the “Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government”.

There is no information relating to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and / or the Housing & Planning Act 2016.

However, the guide does include one important change that could be easily overlooked:

  • In previous versions of the guide, the landlord / agent was required to provide a copy of the guide to the tenant(s) either in hardcopy, or by way of a clickable link.
  • The requirement as of January 2018, is for the landlord / agent to provide a copy of the guide either in hardcopy, or if the tenant agrees, via a pdf copy as an attachment to an email.

So an actual copy of the guide must now be provided, either hardcopy or electronic. In the absence of positive consent to an electronic copy, the landlord can only be sure to discharge their obligation by provision of the hard copy.

With MEES, banning orders, rogue landlord databases and fitness for human habitation (which passed its second reading 19/01/2018), further changes can be expected over the next twelve months.

The guide has been static since February 2016, so anticipated repeated amendments will add a further layer of complexity for landlords seeking to recover possession via the s21 route.