‘Right to rent’ legislation: the landlord’s responsibilities

Written on 16 October 2017 by Giles Cook in Property News

The law on right-to-rent

The 2016 Right to Rent law has given landlords new responsibilities. Anyone aged 18 or over wishing to rent property in England and Wales now has to prove they are legally entitled to do this.
Depending on their immigration status, potential tenants fall into three groups: those with an unlimited right to rent, those with a time-limited right to rent, and those who have no right to rent. Designed to prevent illegal immigrants renting a home, it is you, the landlord, who is tasked with implementing the legislation.

Landlords are now obliged to check the government-specified identity papers of anyone who will be renting your property as their main home during the 28 days before their tenancy agreement begins.  

History and Heritage: Belgravia

There are severe penalties if you don’t carry out the checks: fines of up to £3,000 per tenant or even imprisonment.


Which tenants should you check?

To avoid falling foul of anti-discrimination laws, you should check all prospective tenants. 

What must you check? The Home Office offers guidance on examining identity documents, and this tells you what to look out for: 

  • Are the documents original? Copies don’t count. 
  • Does the photograph look like the person in front of you?  
  • Is she or he aged over 18? 
  • Does the date of birth seem reasonable?  
  • Is the date of birth consistent between documents?  
  • Are the documents within their expiry date?  
  • Do they show signs of tampering? 
  • Can any changes of name be explained by other documentation, for example marriage certificates? 

The importance of keeping copies

Once satisfied, the law demands that you retain a dated, permanent copy of all the identifying features of each document.  

These copies are important. They are your ‘statutory excuse’, the proof that you carried out the checks and rented out the property in good faith. By showing these copies, you will avoid any penalties should the tenants later be found to be illegal immigrants. You can find out more HERE.

Follow-up checks

In the case of tenants with time-limited right to rent, you are required to repeat the document checks, either just before their time limit expires, or in a year.  

Legally, you must report anyone who no longer has the right to rent to the Home Office. You can check your tenant’s right to rent HERE. You may even have to evict the tenant. On this, you can find more information HERE.

Further tips…

If you use an agent, make sure your written contract specifies which of you is responsible for carrying out the Right to Rent checks. Should you be uncertain about any of the documents the potential tenant presents, you are entitled to ask for further proof of that person’s right to rent.  

When buying a property with sitting tenants, make sure the previous landlord has both carried out the checks and given you the copies that were made. The Home Office has said that it will not penalise anybody for being fooled by a good forgery, but remember, we are here to help. 

For more Information
Concerned as to how this affects you? Contact us for help 

Giles Cook

Giles recently joined Best Gapp in 2017 as Partner Designate and Head of Residential Agency, bringing over 20 years’ experience to the firm. Following a three-year stint as an Area Director for Foxtons, he went on to head up Chestertons’ sales and lettings operations in central London, before becoming a Partner at top Knightsbridge boutique WA Ellis.

All articles by Giles Cook


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