Medway Landlords Risk Non-Compliance by Accidently Issuing Incorrect “How to Rent” Guide

Hello readers,

In what looks to be an early Christmas present from the UK Government, a new “How to Rent” guide was issued on December 10th – this is the first revision since the guide was updated in 2018.

The guide is now on version five and is dated December 2020. This is a significant update for landlords as, without evidentiary proof of this guide having been issued at the start of a new tenancy or renewal, there is a risk that you may not be able to gain possession of your property with a Section 21 notice.

I have spoken with the NRLA to enquire about any additional guidance in relation to the updated guide and they have informed me that, for tenants on a fixed-term tenancy, there is no need to re-issue an updated guide.

The NRLA also provided me with some advice which was lacking in an important legal point, as they informed me that the guide should be re-served on all tenants within a periodic tenancy. There is an important point to note here as, if your tenants are on statutory periodic tenancy, then a guide will need to be re-issued. However, if the tenancy is a contractual periodic then an updated guide does not need to be reissued.

A statutory periodic tenancy occurs when the tenancy agreement is missing a vital clause. Without this important clause, there has been case law showing that landlords can be held liable for council tax payments where a tenant is on a statutory periodic tenancy. Those landlords with tenants on a contractual periodic tenancy face no such risk. Once again this shows the importance of having strong legal documentation in place.

Whilst the NRLA are definitely an excellent resource and very helpful, it does concern me that sometimes the NRLA’s advisors may not be fully versed in more complex legal issues. In my experience, it can be better to email them on complexqueries@nrla.org.uk if you want it to be reviewed in detail.

Therefore, if you have tenants outside of their fixed term contract, check your tenancy agreements to see if they contain a contractual periodic clause with the correct wording. If that is missing, then you have a statutory periodic tenancy and you will need to re-serve the How to Rent guide.

The NRLA have stated that the updated guide should be provided in hard copy (with a signed receipt). The guide can also be provided by email in instances where tenants have confirmed an email address to which they are happy to receive notices or documentation in relation to their tenancy. The latter may be specified in their tenancy agreement, however, if you are unsure about this, I recommend speaking with a specialist solicitor who will be able to advise.

The NRLA also recommend that, should there be any doubt about which version of the guide has been issued, it is advisable to send an updated copy to all tenants.

When it comes to the ever-changing world of property compliance, it is always worth spending just that little extra time (and money) ensuring your records meet statutory requirements and keeping up to date with any changes.  You can view the latest guide here.

There are several updates to the “How to Rent” guide, here are a few key points on what’s changed:

  • Details about the updated right to rent checking service
  • Advice in relation to tenants’ rights when it comes to installing a smart meter
  • Additional information regarding the length of tenancies, including a minimum stay of six months and possibility of weekly or monthly ASTs
  • Outlining how a failure to report repairs could be a breach of tenancy
  • Updated section on the requirement for landlords to provide an up-to-date electrical inspection certificate as outlined in the change earlier this year
  • Inclusion of the requirement for all privately rented properties to have a minimum EPC E rating

There will undoubtedly be landlords who are not aware of the updated documentation – particularly those with just one or two rental properties and I personally believe that when introducing such a significant change, the Government could have done more to raise awareness of it!

In addition to this, I question whether the timing of the new release is appropriate, considering that these substantial changes are being made just a few weeks before Christmas and right in the middle of a pandemic that has been extremely challenging for the rental sector.

This does, however, demonstrate the value to landlords of having a managing agent in place to ensure you remain compliant or, at the very least, a membership with the NRLA along with a relationship with a specialist property lawyer to keep abreast of any changes.

I trust you found this article helpful and would also like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year as this will be my last blog of 2020!

Hasan

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