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The How To Rent Booklet

As if life isn’t complex enough for landlords and letting agents, from 1st October 2015 there is a new requirement to provide a booklet to tenants; ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’.

The current booklet is available here.

Depressingly we understand the content will change from time to time. Landlords and agents must ensure they use the version applying at the particular time it is served. The current guide is 8 pages long.

We recommend a belt and braces approach to proving compliance by printing two copies of the booklet, providing one to the tenant and having them sign the second copy to be retained by you as proof of service for the copy of booklet they retain. Please be careful to mark the copy you retain as a copy as the tenant may argue that they signed the original and you retained it. The logistics required to achieve this aren’t lost on us. With that in mind it is important to note that where the tenant agrees it is possible to email a copy to the tenant. Therefore we would suggest that all tenancy agreements are reviewed to ensure that the tenant agrees to accept service of notices and documents to a specific email address (usually that of the lead tenant) and that a copy of the email attaching the pdf of the booklet is retained as further evidence of compliance.

There are a couple of details that landlords and agents need to keep an eye out for here. One relates to periodic tenancies. When working for landlords and agents we often see compliance at the outset of the fixed term but then issues arise later down the line. Superstrike didn’t help, by requiring (or suggesting) that landlords should re-serve everything when the tenancy became periodic. Although that has now been resolved in relation to deposits there is a risk that the same issues may arise for this booklet. Given that the content of the booklet may change over time, our advice is that the booklet should be re-served at the point where any tenancy becomes periodic simply because that may be interpreted as a ‘new’ tenancy.

A second issue is that the regulations (specifically regulation 3 (1) The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015) simply states ‘must give the tenant’. Does that mean every tenant therefore? The answer is that we don’t think it is particularly clear. Therefore this should be served on every tenant not solely on one of them or on the lead tenant.

Why should landlords and letting agents care about the booklet? The requirement to provide this now forms ‘prescribed information’ that must be provided to tenants before a valid notice seeking possession can be served, i.e. without compliance a section 21 notice will not be valid. This is in addition to the prescribed information relating to deposits (which must also be served).

Where the booklet is not provided landlords will be unable to rely on valid section 21 notices which will delay a landlord from obtaining possession of a property.

Recommendation

– Ensure all tenancy agreements include the ability to serve notices and documents by email;

– Obtain the most recent ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ booklet here.

– Serve it on all tenants via email or retain a signed copy confirming compliance.

12 October 2015

Alex Cook initially trained as a Barrister (non-practicing) before cross-qualifying as a specialist commercial and property litigation solicitor. Prior to becoming joint owner of Helix Law in 2013, he was Head of Litigation and one of the youngest partners in the region in a large firm based in Eastbourne. Comfortable and experienced litigating against large international City firms, he has successfully resolved complex commercial and property disputes for clients ranging from large international businesses and property investors to individual business people. Alex is an accredited commercial mediator  and he is increasingly asked to advise on contracts, risk, dispute avoidance and exit strategies. He also continues to develop and innovate our products, services and funding arrangements with the aim of making specialist litigation services more transparent and accessible.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

Contact Helix Law on 01273 761 990 or email: [email protected]