Easy to Read How to Rent Guide – Understanding the Grey Area
The How to Rent guide is one of the key documents that a landlord must serve on their tenant regularly during a tenancy. The guide sets out important information for both parties to know, including rights, responsibilities and what to do if things go wrong.
However, there is a grey area that you should be aware of when serving the July 2021 of the How To Rent guide.
The July 2021 ‘easy to read’ guide
In July 2021 a new ‘easy to read’ guide was introduced. It has a different format to the other guides. It has more pages than normal, including pictures.
The accompanying July 2021 standard guide was unchanged from the previous guide in December 2020 and is in fact, still marked December 2020 in the footer of the page.
Confusion has therefore arisen as it has not been made clear if the ‘easy to read’ version must also be served with the guide marked December 2020, or if it can be served on its own, to comply with the deregulation act 2015.
Our legal providers – Woodstock Legal Services – have had a small number of cases where a judge has scheduled a hearing to assess whether the correct version of the guide was served. In these cases, the possession claim has been successful. However, there is still no clear consensus or guidance on how the ‘easy to read’ guide should be used.
The common view is that the non ‘easy to read’ version should be provided to all tenants, and that the ‘easy to read’ guide is simply an alternative to be served in conjunction with the July 2021 guide (marked December 2020) if the tenant has reading difficulties. Hence, for anyone who may need or request this version, it should be provided in addition to the non ‘easy to read’ version, as failure to do so may amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
The view that the ‘easy to read’ version should be provided in addition to the main guide, rather than on its own, comes from the fact that this version is not as detailed. For example, the standard guide explains the deposit paperwork needs to be provided to the tenant and what this paperwork consists of and how and when the deposit should be protected, the easy read version fails to mention this, and simply states that ‘the landlord must give you paperwork to show you paid a deposit and they will keep the money safe.’
Yet, there are still legal experts who believe that the ‘easy to read’ guide is actually ‘the current version’ of the guide that must also be served to comply with the law.
Woodstock advise that a belt and braces approach is taken, and that landlords look to serve the ‘easy to read’ guide with the July 2021 guide (marked December 2020) to cover all the bases and avoid any possible issues. Nevertheless, it would be helpful for there to be more detailed guidance on the government website to clear up any confusion, especially when serving the wrong guide can invalidate a Section 21 Notice.