New immigration laws that came into force on 4th February 2016 are going to affect every landlord in the country. The so-called ‘Right to Rent’ checks have not been widely publicised or explained, and figures from the Residential Landlord Association suggest that in excess of 70% of landlords do not understand their obligations under the new legislation.
The crucial part of the legislation is this: it is now the legal responsibility of the landlord to ensure that their tenant has the right to live here legally before renting out their property to them. Failure to carry out these responsibilities effectively can risk prosecution carrying a fine of £3,000 or custodial sentence of up to five years in prison.
By following the tips below, landlords can be relaxed about the new legislation and be confident of compliance with right to rent:
1) Be clear on the number of adults will be living in your property. Make sure it is reasonable based on the size and type of your property. If you have any doubts, you are within your rights to make reasonable enquiries of your prospective tenant and to record their response. If you use a property agent, remember that it is ultimately your legal responsibility to ensure compliance, so make sure your agent is carrying out the correct checks.
2) Make sure that you, or your agent sees original versions of any document that proves right to rent. Validation checks should be made at least 28 days before the tenancy is due to begin, and the tenant should not be permitted to move in before these legal rights have been proved.
3) Check the details of all the documents, preferably in the presence of the document holders. Make sure the details, such as photographs and dates of birth are consistent across the different document. Also make sure that important documents such as passports are not expired. Record the explanations given for any discrepancies.
4) If a tenant claims they have the right to rent but cannot prove it, this doesn’t mean you automatically have to reject their tenancy. For instance, they may have been granted a discretionary right to rent or be part of an ongoing immigration application. In this case, you or your agent can request that their claim be checked by the Home Office and confirmation given. The Home Office should reply within two working days of receiving your request.
Any change in regulations can appear daunting, and right to rent has worried a lot of landlords. In the case of this legislation, poor public information and speculation has compounded legitimate worry among landlords. However, once you are clear about what sort of information is required and the documents a tenant needs to show to prove it, the increased administrative burden will be minimal. The changes themselves should prove positive, and will help landlords secure responsible, long-term tenants for their properties.