The latest update to the How to Rent Guide published earlier this year by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is a checklist. It explains the rights and responsibilities of tenants, landlords and letting agents at each stage of the renting process in England. As a tenant, it provides invaluable advice for when you move into a new property.
A reminder that it’s a mandatory requirement to be distributed to all new tenants
Landlords must give new tenants a copy of the new guide – either as a hard copy or via email as a PDF attachment if requested – whenever a new tenancy begins and on renewal too when the contents have been updated. If they don’t, landlords could lose their Section 21 right to repossess their property.
New safety measures
Revised safety measures that incorporate the latest legislation and terminology have been added. Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted in all rooms with fixed fuel-burning appliances and smoke alarms on each floor of living accommodation.
In addition, landlords must now provide Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs) to tenants that show the condition of electrical installations. A valid EICR (issued every five years) has to be provided to all tenants at the beginning of a tenancy, with new contracts and renewals, and if asked by a prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a written request.
Ensuring disability suitability
Disability rights have been strengthened. Those with disabilities or long-term conditions can request ‘reasonable adjustments’ that could include everything from the agreement terms to adaptations to their home or common parts of a building to improve accessibility. Landlords or agents should respond in a timely fashion and explain any refusals to requests but also have the right to ask the tenant to pay for such changes.
Checking details for Right to Rent checks
Landlords and letting agents now have the option to use a Government-approved Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) provider to check on the identity and immigration status of prospective tenants. Previously, they would do manual checks or use the Home Office online system.
Encouraging tenants to check flood risk
In the section that advises on contents insurance, there is now advice for new tenants to check on flood risks for their property and a suggestion to take out flood-specific contents insurance to cover them if required.
Adding smart meters
A new section has also been added advising tenants to consider the installation of smart meters to encourage energy efficiency and cost savings.
Ending a tenancy
The guide now features what to do if tenants refuse to leave a property when they should, where you’ll find guidance on the eviction process and an explanation of the rights of both the landlord and tenant.
Challenging rent increases
As rents continue to rise, the new guide outlines how tenants can use a tribunal to challenge what they consider to be excessive proposed rent increases.
Documentation for new tenants
The 2023 version also provides a checklist of documentation that should be issued to tenants. As well as the EICR and evidence that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and working, a gas safety certificate should be provided after each annual check and an Energy Performance Certificate that rates the property as being E or higher at the start of the tenancy. Tenants also have the right to information about where their deposit is being held – since landlords must protect it in a government-approved scheme within 30 days – and how their money will be returned.
Membership of a redress scheme for letting agents
The guide also points out that letting agents must be members of an independent redress scheme and advises tenants to check which scheme their agent has signed up to, as well as to check if agents are a member of a client money protection scheme.