The How to Rent Guide was updated in May of this year to reflect the changes introduced by the Tenant Fees Act. Further minor amendments have followed which we have discussed in previous posts. As a consequence of these updates many people on the Painsmith helpline are asking whether they need to serve the updated guide on tenants.
Every time a new guide is issued we encounter landlords and agents who are under the mistaken impression that they must immediately send the updated guide to all their existing tenants. This is not true and there are specific points in the tenancy relationship which trigger the service of the guide.
When to serve the guide
The guide must be provided when a new tenancy or replacement tenancy is given to a tenant. The guide that must be provided is that which is current at the time of the tenancy commencing. If the guide is updated landlords are required to provide a new copy of the updated guide at the outset of any subsequent tenancy, including statutory periodic tenancies.
Additionally, some rental protection insurers appear to be insisting that the guide is served again prior to service of any s.21. There does not appear to be much basis for this but it is probably easier to comply than argue about it.
Consequences of not serving the guide
If a landlord or their agent fails to serve the guide as detailed above no valid s.21 notice can be served. However, there does not appear to be a time limit on serving the guide and so it may be possible to serve the guide late and immediately follow it with a s.21 notice. This is controversial and inevitably will be challenged before the courts at some point. Such a challenge is however not as obvious from the legislation as that which is currently being mounted in respect of Gas Safety certificates.
Best Practise is certainly to serve the guide along with the tenancy deposit information shortly after the tenancy has commenced. However, where there is a delay advice should be sought prior to issuing on an expired s.21 notice.