When you start a tenancy, your landlord must provide you with certain information and documentation related to the property. This includes a valid gas safety certificate, a copy of your property’s Energy Performance Certificate and a copy of the How to Rent Guide, published by the government. A new version of the How to Rent Guide was published recently.
The How to Rent Guide gives renters an overview of what their rights and responsibilities are, what to expect at different stages of the tenancy, and what to do if things go wrong.
There have not been many changes to renters’ rights since the last time the guide was updated – the Renters Reform Bill will change a lot, but we’re still waiting for it to get to Parliament, let alone become law.
We made some suggestions to the government as the new version was being written – some of these were incorporated, but others were not. So this post aims to highlight aspects of the How To Rent Guide that aren’t quite as clear as we think they should be.
The guide has rightly highlighted the first-tier tribunal as a place where renters can go to seek a refund of an illegal fee or to challenge an excessive rent increase.
The guide says that your landlord has to protect your deposit – but doesn’t go into what can happen if your landlord does not do this. If your deposit is not protected, you have protection from a Section 21 eviction notice, and you can apply to the county court for compensation worth up to three times the deposit’s value. To find out more about the deposit protection you are entitled to check out our FAQ page here.
The guide does mention a couple of protections from Section 21 – where the council has served an improvement notice or where the landlord has taken an illegal fee – but it fails to place them all in one easy-to-find part of the guide. Readers are simply encouraged to contact Shelter or Citizens Advice if they receive one. To use Section 21 landlords must also provide documentation such as the gas safety certificate, the energy performance certificate and the How to Rent Guide itself – see the full list here.
Although the guide has a section on Right to Rent, it does not explain what the right to rent entails or who it affects. The right to rent means that you are eligible to rent a property from a private landlord, either directly from them or through a letting agency. The right extends to anyone over the age of 18 who is either a UK national or has settled or pre-settled status or has a visa giving them the right to remain in the UK. It means that it is illegal for landlords to let to non-UK nationals who don’t have the correct paperwork. It’s important to know, if you aren’t sure, whether you have to right to rent in the UK – you can easily check via the government’s website.
The guide is still a valuable summary of what your rights are and we are glad that the government is continuing to move forward with improving the rights of renters with the Renters’ Reform Bill. However, it’s important that the issues with the guide are raised so that any future revisions to it can take them into account.