As of 1 February 2016 all landlords of private residential property in England (subject to certain exclusions such as social housing, student accommodation, hostels and local authority accommodation) must check the immigration status of any potential tenant before letting their property. But not all landlords, or tenants, entirely understand what this means.
Landlords or agents who let residential property in England now have to carry out checks to ensure that tenants have the right to rent in the UK. This means checking that tenants have the right to be in the UK. Anyone who breaks the rules by letting a property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK can be fined up to £1,000 for the first offence and £3,000 for any subsequent offences.
What do Landlords have to do?
- All landlords must check that the applicant has genuine official documents (e.g. UK passport, EEA/Swiss national passport or identity card/UK immigration status document endorsed with unlimited leave/certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen) that grant them permission to live in the UK. Genuine documents must be copied and the date when they were checked with the potential tenant present must be recorded. If a landlord makes the checks and retains copies as required, they will have a statutory excuse against a penalty for letting to an illegal migrant.
- Landlords must check on those that have temporary permission to stay and can be fined if they don’t check before permission expires or 12 months after the first check.
- Every adult aged 18 and over that will be living in the property as their only or main home has to be checked.
- Landlords must tell the Home Office if they find a tenant can no longer legally rent property in England after making further checks.
- Landlords can evict tenants if they find they aren’t allowed to stay in England.
- To try and avoid the legislation, landlords cannot let to British people alone as this could potentially be classed as discrimination.
What are the Potential Difficulties in Right to Rent Checks?
Landlords may struggle identifying legitimate documentation as, for example, there are over 400 different official documents issued by different EU countries. It’s really important that documents are genuine. The gov.uk website has a tool that can help you check if someone can rent your property. Both landlords and tenants must familiarise themselves with the new requirements and which documentation is acceptable.
Those individuals who don’t have documentation but who are British citizens may struggle finding somewhere to live. Recent figures show that around 17 per cent of British residents don’t have a passport. Those without passports or a visa, but who are legitimately in the country, may turn to rogue landlords for accommodation.
Why have Right to Rent Checks been Introduced?
They’ve been brought in as a way to crack down on rogue landlords and as part of the Government’s ongoing reforms to the immigration system.
Who has a Permanent Right to Rent?
- British citizens;
- European Economic Area nationals (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK);
- Swiss nationals;
- People who have a right of abode in the UK; who have been granted indefinite leave to remain; or have no time limit on their stay in the UK.
Who has a Time Limited Right to Rent?
Those who are not British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals who have valid leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period of time are entitled to do so as a result of Acts of Parliament, European Union Treaties and Immigration Regulations. However, some family members of EEA nationals may be able to demonstrate an unlimited right to rent.