The Government has published an updated “How to Rent” guide together with a further collection of new “how to” housing guides. These guides will be relevant to all Managing Trustees who rent out residential property under Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), such as Manses, investment property or caretakers flats, when those properties are not being used by the Church;
1) How to Rent – for tenants
The “How to Rent” guide (‘the Rent Guide’) is aimed at tenants who are renting or about to rent a property on an AST. Managing Trustees letting property under an AST must provide tenants with a copy of the most up-to-date Rent Guide at the start of each tenancy. Failure to do so will restrict the landlord’s ability to serve a section 21 notice terminating an AST. As Managing Trustees may already be aware, a Section 21 notice is a notice given to the tenant by the landlord to regain possession of the property at the end of an AST. Further information on statutory requirements placed on landlords and ending tenancies is provided in the Residential Tenancy (Statutory Requirements) Focus Note and the Residential Tenancy (Ending) Focus Note.
Please note that the most up-to-date guide is the 9th July 2018 version and not the version published by the government on 26th June 2018. This included a mistake leading to the 9th July version being published and the earlier 26th June version now being out of date.
If Managing Trustees use an agent to manage their tenancies the agent should be aware of the updated Rent Guide and ensure that the tenants are provided with a copy of the correct version. However, please check with them.
The purpose of the Rent Guide is to assist the tenant to understand their rights and responsibilities under an AST including
- pre-rental considerations: budgets, right to rent, guarantor requirements, deposit protection
- documentation that the landlord must legally provide including the Rent Guide itself, gas safety certificate, deposit paperwork, EPC, details of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- obligations on a tenant: payment of rent and bills, restrictions on sub-letting
- obligations on the landlord: maintenance, safety, repair, insurance
- what to do if things go wrong: procedures to follow
Although the Rent Guide is aimed at the tenant, it is strongly recommended that Managing Trustees familiarise themselves with the contents of the Rent Guide so that they know what rights their tenants have and what responsibilities are placed on them as landlord.
The Rent Guide has also been updated to reflect the forthcoming ban on tenant fees and the changes to Homes of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) introduced this month (October 2018). TMCP will be providing further guidance on this in due course.
2) How to Rent a Safe Home – for tenants
The “How to Rent a Safe Home” guide (Safe Guide) should also be provided to the tenants at the same time as the Rent Guide. This document is for current and prospective tenants and outlines any potential hazards to be aware of in a residential property, what to look out for in terms of common and dangerous hazards and when/how to report them to the landlord.
Again, it is strongly recommended that Managing Trustees familiarise themselves with the contents of the Safe Guide and use it to identify any issues that may need to be addressed or investigated during the next quinquennial inspection.
3) How to Let – for landlords
The “How to Let” guide (Letting Guide) is relevant to all Managing Trustees who let residential property in England under an AST.
The Letting Guide sets out the legal responsibilities placed on Managing Trustees as landlords and best practice. This Letting Guide covers the practical side of letting and includes agreeing the terms of a tenancy as well as steps to be taken at the end of the tenancy. This Letting Guide mirrors the guidance aimed at tenants in the Rent Guide and should be read by all Managing Trustees who are involved in letting residential property.
4) How to Lease - for leaseholders
Unlike the above “how to” housing guides, this guide does not relate to private residential lettings. The “How to Lease” guide (Lease Guide) is for leasehold occupiers i.e. occupiers of property held under a long lease e.g. a 999 year lease of a new build property or flat, or prospective buyers in England and Wales. The Lease Guide explains what it is to be a long leaseholder and outlines the differences between being a leaseholder and freeholder. There is also a section covering the landlord’s obligations and the leaseholder’s rights in terms of information.
Managing Trustees considering buying (or who already own) leasehold property will find the Lease Guide useful.
Please take time to read the government’s helpful guides and check that the most up-to-date versions are being provided to tenants. This article should be used as a reminder for Methodist Managing Trustees acting as landlords of residential property to ensure their systems are up to date and suitable to comply with the many regulations placed on landlords. Managing Trustees acting as landlords need to make sure that they are aware of the legislative requirements placed on them as a failure to adhere to these requirements can have costly and time consuming consequences.
Managing Trustees should consider the new guidance carefully to maintain continuity when letting and to also prevent complications arising before, during or after the tenancy has completed.
If you have any queries in relation to the guidance in this document please contact TMCP Legal for further assistance.