From 1st February 2016 there was a notable change for all private residential landlords in the UK and what ‘checks’ they need to make on new tenants, with 7 out of 10 landlords back in February apparently not realising this.
This Right To Rent scheme has been piloted by the government in the West Midlands since December 2014, but was introduced and now applicable for the whole country through the Immigration Act 2014. Get this wrong and you face a civil penalty with up to £3,000 fine, and proceedings underway through parliament to bring in further sanctions including imprisonment.
Put simply, landlords need to check that all adult occupiers are legitimately allowed to reside in their property as their main home with a ‘right to rent’ in the UK. If they can’t prove this, then landlords can’t rent to them.
Now, although a sensible obligation at face value, in reality this might have been missed previously, the focus perhaps being on general references or finances and ability to pay, and having that overall peace of mind. Now there needs to be a clear paperwork trail on tenants’ legal ability to be living in the UK.
So, after sifting through the details on this (full details at the gov.uk website), here’s 10 important aspects to this new obligation that landlords and others with property interests need to be aware of:
1. It Refers to All Adult Occupiers, Not Just Tenants on the Agreement
So, do get to the bottom of who else is ‘living’ at the residence other than the official tenants on the lease, not only to check any lease issues but to comply with this Right to Rent.
2. The Main Piece of Documentation is a Passport
In particular British, EU, and Swiss passport holders.
3. This Documentation Actually Needs Viewing and Checking in Front of the Person
A compromise mentioned is a live video feed with them.
4. Take a Physical Copy of This Documentation and Keep it Until 12 Months After They Leave the Property
Practically, as well as a paper copy on file, go for a digital scan or photograph copy on, say, an email as well; but be careful of the Data Protection Act issues here and keeping this data correctly held and controlled.
Also, be careful of allegations of discrimination. So, although it may be a more straight- forward process for UK nationals with a passport, this should not be a reason for discrimination against other potential new tenants requiring further checks.
5. This Documentation Check/Copy Needs to Happen Within 28 Days of the Start of the Occupation
6. If Potential Tenants Fail the Check, Simply Report the Matter to the Home Office
No need to get into automatic evictions.
7. This Needs to Be Re-Done Every 12 Months
So, do have a process in place to keep on top of it.
8. For Cases Which Are Not Clear-Cut, the Home Office Has a Checking service
This is helpful for any pending claims with them, or if they hold individual documents, with a promise to respond within 2 days.
9. This Only Applies to New Tenancies From the 1st February
Phew, there is no retrospective exercise needed for current ones.
10. There Are Some Exclusions From This Requirement
For example social housing, halls of residence, holiday lets, cases where it is not the occupier’s home, mobile homes, and employer’s accommodation.
Landlords can delegate this responsibility to others, like a managing agent, but even then it is best to check it’s actually been done, and there are the correct records and paperwork. If you want more detail, then here's two questions-answered pages on the RLA and ARLA websites.
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