All private landlords must check that new tenants have a right to rent in the UK before renting out their property. Failure to do so could result in severe fines of up to £3,000 per tenant or even imprisonment so it is crucial that these checks are carried our correctly.
What is ‘right to rent?’
The 2016 Right to Rent legislation 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.
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.
Who has a right to rent?
Depending on their immigration status, potential tenants fall into three groups:
- those with an unlimited right to rent, including British citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA), EU or Switzerland who have indefinite leave to remain
- those with a time-limited right to rent, people who have a UK visa
- those who have no right to rent
Following Brexit, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens lawfully living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 will be able to continue to do so but will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30th June 2021. Those coming to live in the UK after 1st January 2021 should apply for a visa.
How to carry out checks
Before letting out a property to new tenants landlords and agents should:
1. Find out who will be living at the property
All tenants over 18 must have a right to rent check even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement. It’s against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens. You must not discriminate against anyone because of where they’re from.
2. Check your tenants’ right to rent
Ask to see original documentation proving the tenant has the right to live in the UK
- 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 governments right to rent check guide outlines the types of documents which are acceptable to proof a tenant’s right to rent.
3. Keep records
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.
4. 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.
More information about how landlords should carry out right to rent checks can be found on the gov.uk website.
Lettings exempt from right to rent checks
Some types of residential property is excluded from the right to rent legislation. You do not need to check tenants in these types of accommodation:
- social housing
- a care home, hospice or hospital
- a hostel or refuge
- a mobile home
- student accommodation
Right to rent penalties
If an illegal immigrant is found living in a landlord’s property and sufficient checks haven’t been carried out, the landlord may be liable for fine of up to £3000 per tenant.
If right to rent checks seem like a daunting task, consider hiring a good estate and letting agents. Here at Best Gapp completing the right to rent checks are included in our tenant vetting and referencing process.