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The importance of the "How to Rent" Guide and Section 21


The How to Rent Guide:

The requirement to serve prospective tenants with the Government's 'How to Rent' Guide was first introduced in October 2015 following new Section 21 legislation for landlords in England.

It was made a condition of serving a valid Section 21 notice that the current version of the "How to Rent Guide" had been served on the tenant/s at the commencement of the tenancy, or at the very least, before the notice was served.

This article applies primarily to England and is not a definitive interpretation of the law, only the courts can decide. Although tenancy laws are similar in other jurisdictions, there may be significant differences. Always seek professional advice before making or not making important decisions.

In other words, a Section 21 notice would not be valid if the landlord had failed to provide the tenant with a copy of the government's "How to Rent" guide. The landlord must provide the current version of the guide as it is or was at the time of the commencement of the tenancy.

However, fortunately for landlords and agents the correct version of the guide can be provided at any time before the service of the section 21 notice. There are archived copies of the older versions available online.

It is very important when setting up a new tenancy, or on renewal, and when serving a section 21 notice, that ALL the prerequisites have been complied with, and there are now quite a lot of these, see below.

The latest forms and notices should always be used. Keep yourself up-to-date with the requirements through these Government websites.

Following the commencement on the 1st of June 2019 of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 there was a necessity for the Government to update its 'How to Rent' guide and there have been further updates since. You will find the latest available version here:

Alongside this guide, the government was also been obliged, as a result of the new Deregulation Act, to update the Section 21 possession notice known as Form 6a, available here: Form 6a  

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 introduces yet another requirement before a valid Section 21 notice can be served, that is, not to have taken a 'prohibited payment' as prescribed by the Act.

The 'How to Rent' guide serves as an important reminder to both landlords and tenants of their obligations under a AST residential tenancy in England, and it also offers helpful advice mainly to tenants looking to rent, and those living in rented accommodation.

This process of issuing the correct version of the guide is very important for landlords and agents to follow, otherwise a Section 21 notice served before the correct version of the guide is provided to the tenant will be void and unenforceable.

Although the Section 21 'not-fault' eviction process is under review and is likely to be abolished with the enactment of the Tenancy (Reform) Bill 2023-24, as of now it is still available in England.

Eviction using Section 21 should always be used as a last resort, but nevertheless landlords should be mindful of the fact that the S21 process is beneficial and often a better alternative to using Section 8.

In order to use the Section 21 process various regulations introduced over recent years have made this conditional on meeting certain administrative requirements, all of which require some considerable attention to detail by landlords or their agents if legal loopholes are to be avoided when setting up a new tenancy.

It is important to make sure that there is documentary evidence to the fact that all the correct notices have been served and procedures followed.

Reminder of the S21 Requirements:

Before serving a valid Section 21 notice for an assured shorthold tenancy, landlords and letting agents must, as well as meeting their general legal obligations for a tenancy, ensure that the following points have been complied with:

  1. Ensure that where there is a gas supply in the property a current Gas Safety Certificate is given to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy and that any gas appliances are served annually. Fortunately for landlords and agents, following a couple of recent cases, it has been found on appeal that an oversight oversight in serving this notice can be mended providing it is given at any time before the service of a Section 21 notice.
  2. Ensure that an Electrical Safety Certificate (valid for 5 years) is given to the tenant.
  3. The tenant has been provided with a current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) unless in certain circumstances, such as when individual tenants in HMOs don't require one. In this case the EPC should be prominently displayed for the HMO building as a whole. In a minority of cases the property may be exempt.
  4. The current version at the time of the commencement of each tenancy (on renewal as well) of the 'How to Rent' guide is provided to the tenant.
  5. The tenants are provided with the correct tenancy deposit prescribed information relating to the deposit protection agency used, when a deposit is taken. The deposit must be protected within 30 days of its receipt and the prescribe information must be served on the person, persons, or entity providing the deposit.
  6. Where there is a requirement to have a selective licence or an HMO licence then the tenant/s should be provided with a copy.
  7. Any deposit such as a holding deposit should be documented and must have been returned to the tenant.
  8. The Right-to Rent check regulations must have been complied with - see

It is likely that in the not too distant future landlords will also be required to meet a higher standard of EPC that meets the minimum energy efficiency requirements of MEES, that is instead of a minimum rating of "E" it will most likely be increased to "C".  

Note: Supplying documents by electronic means (email attachments of .pdf files for example) is legal, but copies must be of original documents and not links to websites. Also, the tenant must have agreed to receive notifications in this way, so a clause to this effect must be included in the tenancy agreement. And be sure to get acknowledgement of receipt.


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