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How to rent guides – sneak updates


Many thanks to Rich Greenhill (@RichGreenhill ) for spotting this.

The last official update to the MHCLG ‘How to Rent’ Guide was on 31 May 2019, to take into account the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

However, since then, there have been two further changes to the Guide, sneaked out without anything to announce on the ‘How to Rent’ guide page to say these have happened. It still shows the last update as 31 May 2019.

On 3 June 2019, the guide was updated to change the reference and link on page 5 from “NALS” to “Safeagent” .

On 29 July 2019, the guide was further updated to change the wording on page 4 from “If you don’t have a guarantor, you can ask Shelter for help.” to “…for advice.”

Both of these amended versions have been added to our ‘How to Rent’ archive page.

This really should not happen. While the changes are relatively minor tweaks, they are changes nonetheless. And as the statutory requirement is for the tenant to be provided with the version of the guide current at the time, silent changes obviously present problems – how many landlords and agents will be using the original 31 May version without knowing it has since been changed? (Not least as the page says it hasn’t been changed since then.)

While I would imagine a court would give a certain leeway in the circumstances, should it be raised, this is not an issue that should have arisen in the first place. Please MHCLG, do not do this again.


[Update 7 August 2019. Following this post, MHCLG have updated the How to Rent guide page to acknowledge the changes.

Changes note

[Update 15 August 2019 – the current ‘How to rent’ guide pdf remains dated ‘May 2019’ at the bottom. This may well be a cause of confusion, for example for tenants thinking they have not received the latest version. Unfortunately, the only way to check is to look at the text on page 4 and 5 to see if it includes the two changes.]

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Tracy Fisher

    Apologies but the copy marked as the 29 July 2019, still references Shelter on page 4

  2. Bogota Joe

    “While I would imagine a court would give a certain leeway in the circumstances”

    ‘Cos the courts are well renowned for giving landlords leeway with section 21 notices.

    • Giles Peaker

      Oh I’m confident they would. After all, you had provided what the MHCLG website had apparently confirmed was the latest version.

      (Also a lot of District Judges read this site, apparently)

    • KTC

      No “substantially the same” provision in the regulations though?

  3. Andrew Smiley

    My tenants certainly thanked me for delivering piles of A4 paper totalling nearly 6 inches in thickness, and driving around 27 miles to deliver them. The costs of all this are clearly payable ultimately by them, and goodbye green planet courtesy of our wonderful laws. These destructive and unthinking politicians are clearly a disgrace.

    • Giles Peaker

      You could ask them if they would be happy to have a pdf emailed to them…

      Para 3(3) of the AST regulations:

      (3) The information may be provided to the tenant—

      (a) in hard copy; or

      (b) where the tenant has notified the landlord, or a person acting on behalf of the landlord, of an e-mail address at which the tenant is content to accept service of notices and other documents given under or in connection with the tenancy, by e-mail.

      (Also, it is 13 pages. Print double sided and that is 7 sheets. You must have a hell of of a lot of tenants. Provide it at the same time as the tenancy agreement and no extra trips required.)

  4. Andrew Smiley

    It’s all well and good suggesting service by E-mail – but unfortunately given the consequences it would be an extremely foolhardly landlord who did this — given that proving such service is impossible using conventional E-mail. A signature on a duplicate hard copy is the only plausible mechanism.

    A whole ink cartridge annually devoted to this load of waffle. And it’s not only the fuel — it is many hours of my time which someone needs to pay for – and that someone is not ultimately me.

    And yes, 100 tenants = 1300 sheets of paper = nearly three reams just for this.

    • Giles Peaker

      Service by email is fine if it has been agreed. You have proof of sending. That would be sufficient.

      Maybe a laser printer… (and not annual, only if there has been an update since the original tenancy was granted, and a new tenancy (or statutory periodic) has come about. Eg. If tenancy granted 1 October 2015 and renewed annually, would have been a new one for October 2016, then not until October 2018. Will be a fresh one for October 2019.)

      That said, we do rather think the introduction and subsequent management of the How to rent guide has been a bit of a mess…

  5. Andrew Smiley

    What proof of sending? Anyone can fake an outgoing E-mail any day of the week and put it onto an imap server. It requires as much skill as a mongoose.

    • Giles Peaker

      Some people, perhaps, with the right time stamped headers, etc. Not many. Point remains, if service by email has been agreed, then evidence of sending email is as good as evidence of posting. So non receipt would have to be proved, which is very difficult.

      I think you are over reaching somewhat…

  6. Isabel Jones

    Although MHCLG have now acknowledged the updates on, the pdf version still says May 2019 bottom LH corner of Page 2 (Contents page)

    • Giles Peaker

      Yes, though I don’t think much turns on that. The issue principally was that the web page gave no way for people to tell that there had been an update. Obviously it would be better if the Guide pdf reflected that…

  7. Isabel Jones

    But if a tenant looks at the website, sees that there was an update in June/July/August, and then looks at their booklet, which says it is the May version, they may think they have an out of date booklet, when in fact they haven’t… Tenants (and advisers, local authority housing options staff, etc) will need to check the actual wording at relevant points to know whether it is the correct version. Previously checking the date on Page 2 would have been sufficient.

    • Michael Barnes

      Judges too :(

  8. Jon66

    I’m printing out a copy of this page and giving it to my tenant and keeping a copy myself so it is clear to the tenant. Now that isn’t difficult is it?



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