Right to Rent but unable to meet tenant prior to start of tenancy?

by Readers Question

14:07 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

Right to Rent but unable to meet tenant prior to start of tenancy?

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Right to Rent but unable to meet tenant prior to start of tenancy?

I have 2 new tenants starting their new tenancy at the end of this month when they move down from Scotland. When they move in I will be on holiday and hence my son will do the check-in.right to rent

I believe the Right to Rent checks state I must meet with the tenants and check their documentation personally prior to signing the tenancy agreement or could face fines if they were subsequently found to be lying about their nationality.

Other than a flight to/from Scotland (or them postponing movers/flights) please could you advise on how I can meet the current legislation. My thoughts were ‘appropriate person carrying out the checks in Scotland’ i.e. solicitors, bank manager, OR could my son act as my agent (or his property company) and do the checks on my behalf when they arrive.

The irony is that the two tenants are university lecturers and hence the type of person who would generally be validating passports in the first place.

Many thanks

Neil



Comments

Neil Patterson

14:13 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Neil,

I used to be a MLRO (Money Laundering Reporting Officer) for Mark's previous company.

For Proof of ID purposes I would have said that if your Brother sees the original documents and takes a photocopy and signs them as originals seen that is perfectly acceptable for Money Laundering checks. Especially Money Laundering offenses such as tipping of are criminal and carry jail sentences up to 7 years.

Although I am not as up to speed on the Right to Rent requirements.

Here is the .Gov summary guidance for Landlords on Right to Rent checks >> https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370559/guidance_0_summary_checklist.pdf

Kelly Joanna

14:45 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

A referencing agency will do I.D verification for a few extra quid. The landlord does not actually have to meet the tenant, as long as the I.D is properly verified. Try http://www.rentshielddirect.com

Mandy Thomson

15:34 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

I believe the easiest way around this for the prospective tenants to call into a letting agent near them, and for the agent to carry out the right to rent check. However, I don't know how much an agency would charge for this and whether they would be happy to simply do that without carrying out the referencing etc.

You could do a video call with the prospective tenants, so you could see what they look like, then have them post you their original ID documents, but this isn't strictly adhering to the act as it reads at present, and the tenants might understandably be reluctant to send such documents in the post.

As many landlords who let to students arrange lettings while the prospective tenant is overseas, I believe the standard workaround is much as I've suggested above - video call then they send the landlord copies of the documents, then the landlord or an agent checks the originals in front of the tenant as soon as possible after they arrive the UK, assuming they're happy with what they've seen from the copies. However, these are often people who are letting under a licence, or at least a contractual tenancy, not a full AST, so the agreement can be more easily revoked if the tenant fails the right to rent check.

If you do decide to delegate the right to rent check to someone else, ensure you get their agreement in writing (email would do) making it clear that they are liable should the right to rent check fail but a tenancy is still granted.

If you need further help, the Home Office has set up special landlord's helpline on 0300 069 9799.

Mandy Thomson

15:44 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "03/06/2016 - 15:34":

I meant to add that as the letting agent would be in Scotland, you're likely to have even more trouble finding one to do a right to rent check, as right to rent doesn't apply there yet.

Having said that, the check itself is extremely easy, using a step by step guide to the different documents, assuming it's not a standard British citizen's passport.

Romain Garcin

19:03 PM, 3rd June 2016
About 3 years ago

You could ask for a copy of their passports certified by a solicitor. A solicitor will want to see each person face to face so, in my view, the will satisfy the legal requirement to check that the photograph matches the prospective tenant.

Mandy Thomson

11:07 AM, 4th June 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Romain Garcin" at "03/06/2016 - 19:03":

In practice, that makes perfect sense. However, although I can't find the actual wording in the Act itself, everywhere makes it clear that the Act only allows for face to face checks (though I believe they are re-thinking this for the next act that will update this).

I attended a right to rent course with the NLA, and one of the delegates was a manager at a housing association. She suggested using certified copies, but the instructor shook her head and said no, the wording is quite specific - it must be an original and it must be checked face to face (although a "provisional" check can be made via video call and copies provided it's followed up the real thing).

Yet another example of landlords being trapped by badly worded and ill considered legislation!

Romain Garcin

22:58 PM, 4th June 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "04/06/2016 - 11:07":

Actually the relevant Statutory Instrument (where what should be checked is defined) does not say anything about face to face meetings (unless I missed it).
What it says is:
"if a document contains a photograph, satisfy themselves that the photograph is of the occupier or prospective occupier;"

I believe that face to face meetings or video calls are advised in the official code of practice as a way to meet this requirement.

It should be noted that these checks are not legally required at all. It is 'just' that if you do not carry them out and end up letting a someone who hasn't a 'right to rent' you are done for.

graham chambers

20:38 PM, 5th June 2016
About 3 years ago

The Code of Practice says: 'Landlords must check the validity of the documents in the presence of the holder. This can be a physical presence in person or via a live video link, although in either case the landlord must be in possession of the original documents.' The Immigration Act 2014 makes it clear that the Home Office will have regard to the code of practice for determining whether the prescribed requirements have been complied with - including the requirement to have taken all 'reasonable' steps to check the validity of a document. The Code of Practice is explicit in saying that the checks must be carried out in person with the landlord or their agent.

You can delegate responsibility for the right to rent check to an agent - http://www.right2rent.co.uk/landlords provides an agency service to carry out the document checks.

Romain Garcin

22:35 PM, 5th June 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "graham chambers" at "05/06/2016 - 20:38":

Yes, as said, the code of practice states that the check must be carried out face to face. However this isn't a legal requirement.

It you follow the code of practice you are probably sure not to fall foul of the law, or at least sure not to get into trouble with the Home Office.
However, if you do not strictly follow it it does not imply that you are breaking the law. It means that you may have to argue your case and thus that you may fail, hence you incur an element of risk.

Personally I cannot see how asking a solicitor to do this verification is any different from asking an agent. Whilst this will not delegate liability this should IMHO meet the legal requirement I quoted in my previous post.
But it is for each landlord to assess the risk, taking into account that this will only matter if the tenant turns out not to have a 'right to rent'.


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