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Landlords are being reminded that there is less than a month to go before ‘Right to Rent’ goes live across England. The new law means that from 1 February 2016, landlords will have to carry out quick and simple checks to ensure potential tenants have the right to rent property in the UK.
From this week (w/c 4 January) landlords can start to carry out Right to Rent checks as these can be done from 28 days before the start of a tenancy agreement.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
“Landlords with property in England need to prepare now for the new Right to Rent scheme to ensure they are ready for 1 February.
“Ahead of the scheme’s roll out, we have been working closely with an expert panel to make sure their feedback is taken on board and to design a scheme that is as simple and light touch as possible. Many responsible landlords have already been undertaking similar checks – these are straightforward and do not require any specialist knowledge.
“Right to Rent is part of the Government’s wider reforms to the immigration system to make it stronger, fairer and more effective. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected. The scheme is about deterring those without the right to live, work or study in the UK from staying here indefinitely.”
Right to Rent was first introduced in parts of the West Midlands in December 2014 and the extension to England is the next phase of a nationwide roll out. Landlords, and anybody who sublets or takes in lodgers, could face a financial penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant if they are found to be letting property to someone who has no right to stay in the UK.
The Government has been working with an expert consultative panel, which includes trade bodies, local authorities and charities, to listen to feedback from the first phase of the scheme. The panel has advised on an updated landlords code of practice which includes changes to the acceptable document list to make it even simpler to conduct a check.
The panel includes Stephen Gabriel, Homes and Communities Strategic Manager, from Sandwell Council. He said:
“Sandwell, along with other West Midlands local authorities, had a key role during the first phase of Right to Rent as we already work closely with landlords across the borough. We have been ideally placed to listen to their feedback as this new legislation is phased in.
“In October 2015 we held our third annual landlord conference with over 400 West Midlands private landlords, estate and letting agents in attendance. Right to Rent was high on the agenda and people were keen to share their experiences of getting up to speed with the new rules. We were pleased to hear that many landlords felt carrying out checks was good practice, and that the new system was simple and easy to follow.”
There is an online checking aid available on GOV.uk which landlords can use to guide them through the process, and also to request a check on anyone who has an outstanding case with the Home Office.
Right to Rent checks should be carried out on all adult tenants for new tenancy agreements in England from 1 February 2016. The scheme is backed up by codes of practice which include guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination drawn up with the assistance of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Who does the Right to Rent scheme apply to?
The scheme applies to private landlords with property in England, including people who are subletting their property or taking in lodgers. Alternatively an agent can be appointed by a landlord to make Right to Rent checks on their behalf.
Checks must be carried out on all adult occupants – the rules apply to new tenancy agreements from 1 February 2016. Existing tenancy agreements are not affected.
What are the penalties for renting your property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK?
You could face a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant for renting your property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK.
How do you make a check?
The steps are:
1.Establish who will live at the property
2.Obtain a tenant’s original acceptable documents
3.Check the documents with the tenant present
4.Copy and keep the copied documents on file and record the date of the check
If the tenant is only allowed to be in the UK for a limited period of time, you will have to carry out follow-up checks at a later date.
Which documents can be used as evidence?
• UK passport
• EEA passport or identity card
• Permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
• Home Office immigration status document
• Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
• Two readily available and easily accessible documents from a wide list.
A wide range of documents can be presented as evidence. Individuals without identity documents such as a passport can still prove their right to rent using other documents on the approved list. The Home Office has worked closely with various bodies, including housing and homelessness charities, to design a document list which can accommodate a wide range of individual scenarios.
Landlords are not expected to be immigration experts or to have a specialist knowledge of immigration documents or visas. Anyone who is shown a false document will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent it is false.
What if a potential tenant has an outstanding case with the Home Office?
If a person cannot show any of the acceptable documents listed but states they have an outstanding immigration case with the Home Office, a landlord can request that the Home Office carry out a right to rent check by completing an online form. The landlord will receive a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response within two working days.
Anyone who does not have internet access or requires assistance in completing the form may call the Landlords Helpline on 0300 069 9799.
Do I need to make a report to the Home Office if a tenant no longer has a right to be in the UK?
Landlords should make a report to the Home Office if follow-up checks reveal that an occupier no longer has the right to rent in the UK. Landlords are encouraged to report suspected immigration abuse by calling 0800 555 111 or at:
Are there any exemptions from the scheme?
Yes. Exemptions include some accommodation provided by local authorities; student accommodation where the student has been nominated by a higher education institution; hostels and refuges; company lets; and holiday accommodation.
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