In June, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a new guide for private rented sector tenants titled How to rent: the checklist for renting in England. With this guide the government want to give the country’s 9 million tenants access to understandable information for renting property in England.
The then Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said:
“This government is turning up the heat on the small minority of rogue landlords that are not playing by the rules and giving tenants a rough deal. The new ‘How to rent’ guide will give tenants the knowledge they need at their fingertips and help raise the game of landlords who may not know what is expected of them. We are doing all of this without the need for excessive state regulation that would destroy investment in new housing, push up prices and make it far harder for people to find a flat or house to rent.”
The guide includes:
- information and advice on tenancy deposit schemes, tenancy length and bill payments
- a checklist of what landlords must provide to tenants (for example, a gas certificate and deposit paperwork)
- information on the legal requirements of the landlord in maintaining the structure of the property and in giving tenants at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property
- a statement of the legal requirements for landlords and tenants on ending tenancies and returning deposits
- suitable contacts and organisations to turn to should you encounter any difficulty with your private rented property.
DCLG plan to follow the guide with:
- a new code to set standards for the management of property in the private rented sector - with a view to making it statutory
- the introduction of a voluntary, model tenancy agreement, which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies, which will provide extra security and stability for families
- extra guidance for local councils on tackling rogue landlords, protecting tenants from illegal evictions and how best to push for harsher penalties before magistrates for housing offences
The guide is welcome as one more place for renters to look for guidance, and become more informed and empowered. But better awareness can only go so far. A PDF is by no means the answer to the problems that private tenants have – it does nothing to rectify the shortage of supply of housing and the lack of rights that lie at the root of expensive rents, poor conditions and unscrupulous landlords. We await the further measures with anticipation, though much further reform is needed to strengthen the renter’s hand.