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Right To Rent Guide

Often landlords can be daunted by the prospect of changes to the law and would rather ignore them. However, ignorance will not prevent a penalty as the right to rent check is a very important step in approving a new tenant.

We want to reassure landlords that these checks have been integrated in to our existing vetting process and should be viewed as another measure to give our landlords peace of mind. So as daunting as the below is, we will accept responsibility for compliance (in writing) and become the liable party in place of the landlord.

What Is It?

Due to legislation all private landlords in England, including those subletting or taking in lodgers, will have to check the status of new tenants to ensure they have the right to be in the UK before renting out a property.

Many responsible landlords are already doing this as a matter of routine, but now that it’s compulsory, all landlords must familiarise themselves with the process. If they don’t comply with the legislation they could face a heavy penalty.

The checks should be carried out within the 28 day period leading up to the start of a new tenancy.

How It Came About

Right to rent was introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s reforms to build a fairer and more effective immigration system. The law aims to deter those who are illegally residing in the UK from staying in the country.

The phased introduction of right to rent started in the West Midlands (1 December 2014 to 31 May 2015), where councils in Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton were used to test the scheme. This allowed time to assess how the measures would work in practice and carry out a comprehensive evaluation. The first six months of that pilot after review led to the scheme being rolled out across the whole of England from February 2016.

What Does The Law Say?

From February 2016, landlords are expected to conduct right to rent checks every time they look to rent a property to a prospective tenant.

Under right to rent, landlords will be able to rent property to a person who has unlimited right to rent. This could be a British Citizen, someone from the European Economic Area, or a Swiss National. It would also include those who have a time-limited right to rent i.e. Non-EU citizens who have a visa.

What Agreements?

Right to rent applies to a range of residential agreements that require payment of rent. This includes:

  • tenancies
  • sub-tenancies
  • leases of less than 7 years
  • sub-leases 
  • licences

When Does It Need Doing?

Most right to rent checks don’t need to be conducted on tenants already in a property before 1st February 2016.

However, landlords on the original pilot scheme in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton must make checks on their tenants if their tenancies started on or after 1 December 2014. This is because that is when the scheme was introduced in those areas.

The following people will be responsible for carrying out right to rent checks on tenancies agreed on or after 1st February 2016:

  • a landlord letting private rented accommodation
  • a landlord or occupier allowing a lodger to live in a property
  • a tenant sub-letting part or all of a property (this responsibility can be passed over to the landlord providing both parties agree to this in writing)
  • an agent appointed in writing by a landlord to take responsibility for complying with the right to rent scheme

Who Needs Checking?

The scheme applies to all people over the age of 18 living at a property and using it as their only or main home. Landlords are expected to check all adults’ immigration status, including people who live in the property but aren’t named on the tenancy agreement.

When Doesn't Need Checking?

Some types of property and residential tenancy agreements are excluded from the scheme. These include:

  • accommodation arranged by local authorities or relevant NHS bodies in response to statutory duty
  • care homes, hospitals, hospices
  • social housing
  • hostels and refuges
  • tied accommodation 
  • student accommodation
  • long leases

How To Check?

Before letting a property to a new prospective tenant, landlords should follow four initial right to rent steps:

  1. Establish who will be living at the property 
  2. Landlords must see original and genuine documentation which proves the tenant has a right to live in the UK and check the document’s validity in the presence of the holder
  3. Retain a copy of the documents and record the date of the check 
  4. If the person’s right to rent in the UK is for a limited time only, the landlord will need to make a note of the date this right will expire in order to make a follow up check. Depending on which is the longest, landlords must make a further check just before either the expiry date of the tenant’s right to stay in the UK, or 12 months after the previous check. 

What's Needed?

There are many different types of documents which are acceptable, including single documents, combined documents and those where a time limited statutory excuse applies.

A few examples:

  • a British or EU passport or National Identity Card
  • a foreign non EU passport showing the holder has indefinite leave in the UK
  • a Home Office Certificate or residence permit card indicating permanent residency
  • a Certificate of naturalisation

A full list of acceptable documents can be found here.

How To Carry One Out

Landlords should check that the documents appear genuine and show no signs of being tampered with and that they belong to the holder. Photographs and dates of birth should be consistent across documents and match the person’s appearance.

To note, if a document is suspected of being false or tampered with, do not proceed.

What's Needed?

The Home Office has set up a ‘Landlords Checking Service’. Landlords are able to use this service if their prospective tenant doesn’t have any of the acceptable documents to prove that they’re in the UK lawfully.

As long as the person provides the landlord with a Home Office reference number, the Home Office will do the check and get back to the landlord within 2 working days confirming if there is a right to rent or not.

The Landlords Checking Service can be called on 0300 069 9799.

Expired Right To Rent?

Some permits will expire during the term of the tenancy. In those cases, the checks will need to be repeated. Landlords should make copies of the documents and keep them with their records.

If a follow-up check shows that a person no longer has the right to be in the UK, landlords should make an official report to the Home Office.

The forthcoming immigration bill proposes new measures to make it easier for landlords to evict illegal tenants. Landlords will be expected to evict illegal immigrants soon after receiving a Home Office notice that their tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK. In some circumstances, landlords will be able to act without a court order.

A new criminal offence will also target landlords and letting agents who repeatedly fail to carry out right to rent checks or fail to remove illegal immigrants from their properties

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