The “Right to Rent” scheme was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 as a means to prevent people with no legal right to remain in the UK from renting or remaining in private domestic rented accommodation.
It seeks to achieve this by imposing obligations on landlords (or their agents if they have agreed in writing to undertake the necessary due diligence) to check the status of existing and potential tenants. Landlords should not ignore their obligations, since in addition to the original civil penalty of up to £3,000 for failure to conduct the necessary checks, criminal sanctions were introduced from 1 December 2016.
What tenants do the obligations apply to?
The requirements apply to various types of residential tenancy entered into on or after 1 February 2016, including assured shorthold tenancies (the type of tenancy usually granted in the private rented sector). They can also apply to landlords who have lodgers in their home and could even apply to short term holiday lettings if these exceed 3 months in length (as this may indicate the occupant intends it to be his main residence).
A landlord must check the status of all occupants over 18 before the tenancy is granted, regardless of whether they are named in the tenancy document. Once an occupant reaches 18 he must be checked at the next point that follow-up checks are required by the landlord (see below), not on his 18th birthday.
What checks must be made?
A landlord must obtain one or more of the identity documents listed in the Code of Practice on Illegal Immigrants and Private Rented Accommodation (the Code) to verify the nationality and immigration status of the proposed occupant. View the Code for a full list – click here. It includes original documents such as passports, certificates of naturalisation as a British Citizen and permanent residence cards.
The landlord must check these documents in the presence of the owner (or via video link) and copy documents should be dated and kept for the whole length of the tenancy and at least a year afterwards.
The landlord needs to be careful that it does not breach any anti-discrimination or equality legislation when it carries out the checks – advice on how to avoid this added pitfall can be found in separate Government Guidance – click here.
Follow up checks may be required
If an individual has a time limited right to rent, the landlord must carry out further follow-up checks before the later of the expiry date of the time limited right to rent or 12 months.
Heavy burden on landlords
The Immigration Act 2014 has increased even further the administrative burden placed on private domestic landlords.
There is now a minefield of legislation covering all aspects of letting from how to hold rent deposits to the forms to use to terminate tenancies. If you require further information on the right to rent scheme or other matters affecting residential landlords, please contact Senior Associate, Alison Sparks by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.