Are you a landlord or do you aspire to be one in the near future?
Do you know what a right to rent check is?
If you don’t, or you are not sure, then please read every word of this post as it is very important that you understand this.
It doesn’t matter if you use a letting agent to find you tenants it is still essential that you know about the right to rent check. If you or your agent fail to perform the check properly then you could end up facing a fine of up to £3,000.
So what is a Right to Rent check?
It is all about checking that any new tenants you accept in your buy to let properties have the right to remain in the United Kingdom before you agree to accept them. This is in line with new legislation passed on 1 February 2016.
The new law applies in England to all private landlords. You will need to perform a right to rent check even if you are taking in lodgers or subletting. A lot of responsible landlords were carrying out this check before it was made law. Now you have to perform a right to rent check within 28 days leading up to the beginning of a new tenancy.
The right to rent check is part of the reforms by the UK government to make immigration more effective. It is a deterrent to those that want to stay in the country illegally. They tested the scheme in the West Midlands first before rolling it out across the whole of England.
As a landlord, you need to ensure that a tenant has unlimited right to rent. This means they will be:
- A British citizen
- A person from the European Economic Area
- A Swiss national
- A non EU citizen who has a visa for the UK
The right to rent scheme applies in any situation in England that require rent payments such as:
- Standard tenancies
- Sub tenancies
- Leases less than seven years
- Sub leases
When do you need to make a Right to Rent check?
You will need to perform a right to rent check if any of the following apply:
- You are a private landlord offering rented accommodation
- You are an occupier or landlord allowing lodgers to live in your property
- You are a tenant who sub lets all or part of a property (you can pass this responsibility to the landlord if they are in agreement)
- A letting agent that a landlord hires by contract to comply with the right to rent scheme
You need to ensure that a right to rent check is performed on all people that are 18 or over using your property, or part of your property, as their main home. It is essential that you as the landlord check the immigration status of all of the adults living in your properties. They do not have to be listed on a tenancy agreement.
There are exceptions to right to rent checks. Some of these are:
- Where relevant NHS organizations or local authorities arrange accommodation as part of their statutory duty
- Hospitals, care homes and hospices
- Refuges and hostels
- Social housing
- Student accommodation
- Tied accommodation
- Long leases
The new Tenant Right to Rent process
There are four steps that you need to follow as a landlord with a new tenant to comply with the right to rent scheme:
- You need to identify who will live in your property
- You must see genuine and original documentation that proves the tenant and others have the right to reside in the UK – you must perform a validity check in front of the document holder
- You must record the date of the right to rent check and take a copy of all documentation
- If you discover that an individual has a limited time right to rent then you must record the end date and then make a follow up check just before this date occurs or 12 months after you previously checked whichever the longest time is
Never make assumptions when it comes to right to rent checks. Perform the check on everyone even if you know them well. If you don’t do this you could end up falling foul of discrimination laws.
What Documentation will you require from prospective tenants?
There are a number of documents that are acceptable for right to rent checks. These can include single documents, document combinations and documents that have a limited time statutory excuse.
Here are some common examples:
- A British passport, EU passport or a national ID card
- A non EU passport which shows that the individual has the right to indefinite stay in the UK
- A permanent residency card or Home Office certificate
- A naturalisation certificate
As a landlord you can always appoint an agent to perform the right to rent checks on your behalf. As long as there is a written agreement then the agent will be totally liable with compliance rather than you as the landlord.
How to conduct an immigration background check on a new Tenant
It is your responsibility to check that the documents presented to you by a new potential tenant appear to be genuine and there are no signs of tampering. Do you believe that these documents belong to the person that gave them to you?
Check for consistency with dates of birth and photographs across any documents that they provide you with. Are all of the photographs a true likeness of the individual? The bottom line here is that if you suspect that there is anything false about the documentation or tampering is evident then do not offer the tenancy.
If you don’t feel that you are able to carry out these checks properly for whatever reason then you will probably find that there are companies offering tenant referencing in your area. It is better to spend a little money using these companies than to risk breaking the law and end up paying a hefty fine.
There is now a “landlords checking service” established by the Home Office. You can use this service if your potential tenant doesn’t have any documentation to prove that they are living in the UK legally.
You will need to ask your potential tenant for a Home Office reference number so that they can perform the necessary checks and get back to you within 48 hours to confirm if the person has the right to rent.
What you need to do if the Right to Rent has expired
You are likely to come across the situation where permits to reside in the UK expire before your tenancy agreement does. If this is the case then you have to perform the right to rent check again. Be sure to make copies of all documents supplied by the tenant and record the date of the check.
You need to make an official report to the Home Office if your tenant no longer has the right to reside in the UK. If you receive notification from the Home Office that a tenant no longer has the right to rent then you must evict the tenant immediately. You may or may not require a court order to do this.
So now you know what a right to rent check is and why you will need to perform them. If you fail to complete these checks then you will face a stiff penalty and pleading ignorance will not help you at all. Take responsibility and outsource this to a qualified letting agent or tenant screening company if this is the best solution for you.