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Updated government how to rent guidance: What landlords need to know


On March 24, 2023, the government released the latest version of How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England. The guidance provides residential tenants an outline regarding their rights and responsibilities, and what they should expect from their landlord. Zoe Taylor and Lucy Parkhouse from Harrison Drury’s property litigation team look at what the new guidance means for landlords.

Property landlords and residential lettings agents in England must serve the new How to Rent guidance to tenants either at the start of a new tenancy or at renewal – as it forms part of the prescribed information landlords must issue.

If a landlord fails to issue the guidance, they will be unable to rely on their right to repossess the property pursuant to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. These regulations only apply where an Assured Shorthold Tenancy was granted on or after October 1, 2015 (including a written renewal) and they do not apply where an AST becomes a statutory periodic tenancy on or after October 1, 2015, where the original fixed term was granted before October 1, 2015.

New prohibited fees

One of the most significant changes in the updated guidance is the inclusion of new information on the Tenant Fees Act. The act, which came into force on June 1, 2019, prohibits landlords and letting agents from charging tenants certain fees in relation to their tenancy.

Prohibited fees now include:

  • Fees for references, credit checks, and immigration checks.
  • Fees for inventory checks and cleaning services.
  • Fees for renewing or extending a tenancy agreement.
  • Fees for early termination of a tenancy agreement.
  • Fees for the provision of a guarantor.
  • Fees for pets.
  • Check-in fees.

It’s important to note there are some exceptions to the ban on fees. For example, landlords are still allowed to charge tenants for rent arrears or damage to the property caused by the tenant.

However, the amount charged for these fees must be reasonable and must not exceed the actual cost incurred by the landlord.

Electrical safety checks

Another important change in the updated How to Rent guidance is the new guidance on electrical safety checks. From July 1, 2023, landlords are required to have their rental properties inspected and tested by a qualified electrician at least every five years.

The latest guidance provides details on what landlords must do to comply with this new regulation.

Tenancy agreements

Additionally, the guidance emphasises the importance of providing tenants with a written tenancy agreement and outlines the key information that must be included in this agreement.

It also advises tenants on how to check if their deposit is being protected in a government-approved scheme, and what to do if they believe it is not.

For landlords, these are significant changes. They will need to ensure they are up to date with the latest regulations and requirements in the private rented sector. Landlords need to ensure that their properties are compliant with the new electrical safety regulations, and that they are not charging tenants any fees that are now prohibited by law.

They will also need to ensure that they are providing tenants with the necessary information and documentation, such as a written tenancy agreement and details of the deposit protection scheme.

Overall, the new edition of the How to Rent guidance reinforces the government’s commitment to improving the private rental sector for tenants. Landlords will need to ensure they are complying with the latest regulations and provide tenants with a safe and secure home.

If you are a residential property landlord and seek advice regarding the latest How to Rent guidance and your obligations to tenants, please contact Harrison Drury’s property litigation team on 01772 258321.

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