Checking tenants Right to Rent

Checking tenants Right to Rent

7:00 AM, 5th September 2017, About 7 years ago

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This is the 8th post in my 2017 Legal Update series.

Ever since 1 February 2016 (or 1 December 2014 for landlords around Birmingham) landlords and agents in England have had to check whether the people who will be occupying their properties have a ‘right to rent’ in the UK.

It has caused a lot of worry and work all round and there is a question mark over its effectiveness – as it appears that few people have actually been deported as a result.

Indeed, moves are afoot to challenge the expansion of the regulations to Wales and Scotland.

However, in England we are stuck with them. With Brexit, it is unlikely that they are going to be rescinded any time soon. So, what do they involve?

Focus on damage limitation

The main thing for landlords and agents to appreciate is that your job is not to catch illegal immigrants for the Home Office (that’s their job) but to make sure that you have complied with the regulations so you can’t be fined or prosecuted.

So, you need to:

  • Read and follow the government’s online guidance
  • Check EVERYONE who is going to live in the property – whether or not they are actually going to be a tenant (underage children do not need checking but make sure you get proof of age, particularly if they are a teenager).
  • Make sure you keep a detailed record of your check and the paperwork provided – so you can produce it if challenged.

Here are some tips for you:

  • Make sure you check the online guidance regularly – it changes every now and again and you need to be using the most recent version. You will be deemed to have had notice of this so if you don’t do what it says you could be in breach of the rules.
  • Have a form which you use to record the check (there is one on Landlord Law for members and you will find a different free form here).
  • Don’t just save the paperwork, but details of your interview too. For example, if there are any suspicious circumstances e.g. a single man renting a five-bedroomed house, you need to be able to show that you have asked them about it. So, you will be able to prove (in our example), if asked, that you have checked to make sure that the single man is not going to use the spare bedrooms to house illegal immigrants!
  • Make sure you keep the form and copy paperwork for as long as necessary.
  • Make NO exceptions to the checks. Even if you are renting to your Mother, it is a good idea to have a record on file of her passport. If you are seen as regularly making exceptions to the checks for example for people who are white and appear to be English, this is discrimination which is a criminal offence.

The new Immigration Act 2016

As you are probably aware there has been a new Immigration Act which came into force in December 2016. There are two aspects of this you need to know about:

  • The new grounds and procedures for evicting those without a right to rent in your properties and
  • The new criminal penalties for landlords who breach the rules

You probably don’t need to worry too much about the criminal penalties. These are really aimed at criminal landlords such as those who deal with people trafficking, rather than ordinary landlords who happen to have made a mistake. Still the criminal penalties are there, so best not to make any mistakes!

The new eviction procedures are:

  • A new ground for possession (ground 7A) and
  • A new procedure to evict occupiers via the High Court Sheriffs without having to get a court order first if you are served a notice by the Home Office.

It is unlikely that you will actually have to use these procedures if you do your checks properly but it’s a good idea to know that they exist.

Further information:

Our 2017 Conference Course includes a ½ hour talk on right to rent from Immigration expert Sue Lukes where she talks though the regulations and how they work and explains all the new rules in some detail.

This is a really useful talk to bring yourself and your staff (if you have any) up to date. It will also be useful for new staff as part of your induction process.

You will find more information about the Conference Course here.

There is also a right to rent section on my Landlord Law membership site, with forms and FAQ plus members can also ask me ‘quick questions’ in the members forum area.

You can find out more about Landlord Law here

Next time I will be writing about tenancy agreements.

Tessa Shepperson is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer and runs the popular Landlord Law online information service.

To see all the articles in my series please Click Here

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