Following rules set eight years ago, it became mandatory for letting agents and private landlords in England to provide tenants with a copy of the ‘How to Rent Guide’ when starting a tenancy, and whenever a tenancy is renewed if there has been an update to the contents of the guide.
In March 2023 the government released an update to the ‘How to Rent Guide’, a checklist for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector providing detailed information on each stage of the renting process to help them understand their rights and responsibilities.
The guide forms part of the prescribed information that landlords must issue. If they fail to do so, they lose the right to repossess using Section 21.
Below are selected just a few of the guide’s points.
1. What to look out for before renting.
Is the landlord or letting agent trying to charge any fees for holding the property, viewing the property or setting up a tenancy agreement?
Since 1 June 2019, most fees charged in connection with a tenancy are banned.
How much is the deposit?
Since 1 June 2019 there has been a cap on the deposit the tenant is required to pay at the start of the tenancy. If the total annual rent is less than £50,000, the maximum deposit is 5 weeks’ rent.
Are you entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit?
If so, you may get help with all or part of your rent.
2. Looking for your new home.
Length of tenancy. There is usually a fixed period of six or 12 months. If you want more security, it may be worth asking whether the landlord is willing to agree to a longer fixed period.
Fixtures and fittings. Check you are happy with them, as it is unlikely that you will be able to get them changed once you have moved in.
Fitness for human habitation. Your property must be safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm. If not, you can take your landlord to court.
3. When you’ve found a place.
Check the paperwork. Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities before you sign it.
Things the landlord must provide you with.
- A copy of the How to rent’ guide.
- A gas safety certificate before you occupy the property.
- Deposit paperwork. (If you have provided a deposit, the landlord must protect it in a government-approved scheme within 30 days and give you prescribed information about it.)
- The energy performance certificate showing the energy performance rating of the property you are renting, free of charge at the onset of your tenancy.
- A report showing the condition of the property’s electrical installations.
Evidence that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order at the start of the tenancy.
Check if the property is suitable for your needs if you are disabled. If so, or you have a long-term condition, you can request reasonable adjustments from your landlord or agent.
4. Living in your rented home.
Things the tenant must do.
Pay the rent on time and any other bills. Look after the property. Do not take in a lodger or sub-let without the landlord’s permission.
Things the tenant should do.
- Know how to operate the boiler.
- Regularly test smoke alarms.
- Report any need for repairs to the landlord.
- Obtain insurance for your contents and belongings.
- Consider having smart meters installed to help you keep track of your energy consumption and save money.
- Register to vote at your new address.
Things the landlord must do.
- Maintain the property.
- Fit smoke alarms on every floor and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with fixed combustion appliances such as boilers.
- Deal with any problems with water, electricity or gas supplies.
Things the landlord should do.
- Insure the building to cover the costs of any damage from flood or fire.
- Check regularly to ensure all fixtures and fittings are safe.
5. At the end of the fixed period.
Many private tenancies start as a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy.
Your 3 options at the end of a fixed term are:
- Sign a renewal agreement for a new fixed term.
- Let it become a rolling periodic tenancy (where you carry on as before but with no fixed term).
- Leave the tenancy. (Each of these options is explained in more detail in the guide.)
6. What to do if things go wrong.
As explained in the guide, If there are any problems, most of these can be resolved quickly and easily by talking to your landlord or letting agent. In addition there are often legal protections in place for the most common problems that you may experience during the tenancy. The guide contains links telling you what they are or where to look for help, together with details of where to look for further useful sources of information.
The new versions of the How to Rent and How to Let guides are available on the gov.uk website.