How to comply with new Right to Rent rules

New rules coming into force in February 2016 will force landlords across the country to carry out Right to Rent checks on all prospective tenants.

Right to Rent For LandlordsIn a bid to tackle illegal immigration, Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 states private landlords must ensure potential occupiers have the right to live in the UK. The new regulations state that landlords or letting agents who fail to carry out Right to Rent checks could face a fine up to £3000 or even a jail term.

The rules do not just apply to landlords and letting agents. Tenants in private accommodation will be expected to conduct Right to Rent checks themselves if they’re sub-letting part of the property.

The good news, however, is the legislation is not retrospective. Existing occupiers who moved into a property before February do not need to have their immigration status examined.

Many landlords and property owners have voiced concerns about the scheme’s introduction. Here, the Immigration Advice Service provides a guide to complying with the Right to Rent legislation.

How to conduct a Right to Rent check

There are four steps involved when a landlord, property owner or letting agent conducts a Right to Rent check.

  1. Establish which adults will be using the property as their only or main home.
  2. Request original documents from the occupiers
  3. Check these documents with the prospective tenants present
  4. Once satisfied a tenant has the right to remain in the UK, make copies of the documents and keep them safe alongside details of the date the check was made

Those conducting a Right to Rent check must ensure the documents are original and belong to the prospective tenant, the dates of birth are the same across all documents and the documents don’t appear to have been altered in any way. There may be occasions where the names differ from document to document, for example if an occupier has married since the document was issued. Supporting documents must be provided to prove this.

When making copies of documents, landlords must photocopy every page of a passport. If obtaining a biometric residence permit, both sides must be photocopied. The date the photocopy is made must be recorded along with all other documentation. Landlords must keep all copies for a full year after the tenants have left the property.

Landlords and home owners must be sure to follow Data Protection legislation.

Which documents are considered acceptable?

There are numerous documents that can be accepted as proof of right to remain in the UK. Find the full list via the government’s own landlord’s guide to checking immigration documents.

The full list is broken into two main categories, those that show a tenant has an unlimited right to rent in the UK, and those that prove the tenant can rent in the UK on a temporary basis. Acceptable documents include (but are not limited to) passports showing the holder is a British citizen, some national identity cards and certain registration certificates.

Do resident landlords need to carry out these checks?

Resident landlords will also need to carry out right to rent checks if they are taking in a lodger.

If a tenant is sub-letting a property, they must make sure prospective sub-tenants have the right to rent.

Can the responsibility be passed over to someone else?

Landlords could, if they wish, hand responsibility for Right to Rent checks over to an agent, but written evidence must be logged to prove that both parties are happy with the arrangement. If an agent was to accept responsibility for Right to Rent checks but then failed to comply with the legislation, they could be liable for a civil penalty.

Tenants whochoose to sub-let could transfer their Right to Rent check responsibility to their landlord . However, both parties must agree and there needs to be written evidence to prove the landlord has accepted responsibility.

Who needs to be checked?

Landlords, agents and householders must check the status of every prospective tenant or lodger over the age of 18, whether or not they suspect they have a right to rent in the UK.

If a landlord, agent or homeowner was to only check the status of those they suspect to have no right to rent, they could face accusations of discrimination.