New paperwork rules now in place

A rush of publicity accompanied the arrival of the fees ban last Saturday. What’s been far less obvious is that on the same day, a new version of the mandatory How to Rent (HTR) guide was introduced. This new document must be issued to all tenants. There’s also a new version of Form 6a which relates to provisions under the Housing Act 1988, Section 21.

Even though Section 21 is still, currently, available to landlords, it’s worth knowing that it cannot be used if the correct paperwork hasn’t been issued.  In other words, a small administrative error, such as issuing a tenant with an earlier version of the How to Rent guide, could mean you cannot recover possession of your property.

There’s a subtle twist to this rule that will, no doubt, catch many out. You won’t be able to serve the new Section 21 6a form without the tenant being in receipt of the new HTR guide. Under the old rules, it would have been acceptable as long as tenants were in receipt of the guide that was valid at the time the tenancy commenced or was renewed.

In other words, and for complete clarity, Landlords cannot use the Section 21 (no fault) eviction procedure unless an up-to-date version of the guide has been provided to the tenant.

The new document can be found here.

As a reminder, here’s a quick checklist of the documentation you need to be issuing to tenants:

  1. The Government’s How to Rent guide. You can print this or provide the tenant with an electronic version
  2. An up-to-date Gas Safety Certificate
  3. A copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (unless you are letting single rooms in an HMO)
  4. The prescribed information regarding the protection of their deposit
  5. If the property is licensed, you must also give a copy of the licence to all tenants.

And here’s another caution. All these documents must be the latest version at the time of issue. If you use hard copies or don’t keep links updated, you may unintentionally fall foul of the rules. There are two key things to remember – the new How to Rent guide and the new version of Form 6a.

These aren’t the only things that landlords and agents will be struggling with as they adjust to the new landscape. Although charities like Shelter have welcomed the fees ban, the industry and ARLA Propertymark are continuing their campaign to raise awareness that rents will rise as a consequence. Furthermore, the organisation has a Tenant Fees Toolkit containing useful resources, FAQs and practical tips to help with navigating the change.

As always, we recommend you keep a close eye on the trade press. Follow the advice given by your professional bodies and make sure that those who need to be aware of the changes understand their new responsibilities. If an old version of form seems like a minor problem, remember that, as an industry, we need to remain professional throughout all these changes if we wish to foster the respect of our customers, our tenants and the wider public.

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