As part of the clampdown against illegal immigration, private Landlords throughout England now have to conduct “Right to Rent” checks against their tenants. Landlords who fail to do so can be fined up to £3,000 per tenant and Landlords who persistently fail to conduct right to rent checks can be prosecuted under the criminal law.
The changes were introduced courtesy of the Immigration Act 2014 and took effect from 1st February 2016. Under the legislation, only people with the right to stay in the UK are permitted to rent.
Whilst it is not currently necessary to check existing occupiers, Landlords (or their agents if the responsibility has been passed to them) do need to check new tenants and lodgers over the age of 18 years. Checks have to be carried out against every adult who will be living at the property as their main residence, regardless of whether they are named on a tenancy/lodging agreement or not. For example, the immigration status of all adult children must be checked. These checks have to be carried out before they are allowed to move in.
To ascertain a tenant’s immigration status, Landlords are obliged to see the original documentation that proves their right to remain in the UK. Copies of these documents must be retained by the Landlord for a minimum of twelve months after the tenancy has come to an end or the occupier has left. The type of documentation that proves an individual’s right to remain in the UK includes a UK passport, EEA Identity card, and a Residence card. A full list can be found at www.gov.uk.
If a tenant asserts they are entitled to remain in the UK but for some reason, the documentation is not available, an online check of a person’s status can be made via the Home Office website.
In the event that a person only has a temporary right to remain in the UK, Landlords must diarise the expiry date and carry out further checks to ensure the tenant’s right to remain in the UK has not lapsed. If a tenant stays in occupation after their right to remain in the UK has lapsed, Landlords are legally obliged to report the individual to the Home Office.
Given that Landlords also need to comply with discrimination laws under the Equality Act 2010, it is advisable that all
applicants are taken through the same tenant verification and selection process.
Whilst it is too early to assess the impact of the legislation, it is clear that private Landlords are facing an increasing legislative burden and the uninformed amongst them could be taught a very expensive lesson.