‘Right to Rent’: what it means for landlords

Under the Immigration Act 2014, residential landlords are now under an obligation in England to check if their Tenants have a ‘Right to Rent’. This scheme has been in operation in the West Midlands since December 2014, and the Government has now extended it across England in the next phase of a UK-wide roll-out. This obligation on landlords also applies to people who are subletting their property or taking in lodgers. Landlords who fail to carry out checks risk a potential penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant.

In order to establish if a tenant has a ‘Right to Rent’, landlords have a duty to carry out documentation checks on their tenants. Under the rules, landlords are expected to check through ID documents of their tenants, ensuring that the documents are originals, that the documents belong to the tenant and that the dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK have not passed.

The scheme is being introduced as part of the Government’s drive to “create a hostile environment for illegal migrants”. Critics fear that an unfair burden will be placed on landlords as they may not have the knowledge to be able to check if their tenants are eligible to reside in the UK. For example a British, EEA, or Swiss National will automatically have the right whereas most non-EU citizens will require a visa.

The Residential Landlords Association has said its members have been put in a difficult position. They could either “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.

In order to ensure that these new rules are followed correctly, landlords should take the following steps:

Before the tenants are in occupation:

  • Check who the adults will be living at the property. Will it be as their only or main home? These checks do not need to be carried out on those who are under 18 years old or students
  • check the immigration status of each person living at the property. This needs to be done 28 days before they move in

Checking the documents of each tenant:

  • Obtain original ID documents from the tenants
  • Check each document in the presence of the tenants
  • Take a copy of any documents checked and ensure you date it
  • Securely store your copies of the documents

Whilst the tenants are in occupation:

  • Make sure that you keep a note of when documents are due to expire or if they are now required if a child is turning 18
  • Re-check all originals and report to the Home Office if necessary
  • The recheck will need to be done when the time-limited document expires or at 12 months, whichever is the latter
  • Once the tenancy is ended, the documents will still need to be kept securely for at least a further 12 months.