A big change has just come into effect for landlords across England with the introduction of the new 'Right to Rent' rules.
The official start date for the new rules was February 1, 2016. If you have yet to find out about the new rules, here's a guide to what you need to know.
Right to Rent Overview
Right to Rent refers to new checks that landlords (or agencies) must now make to ensure that the tenants have the right to live and rent a residential property in the UK. They are part of the Immigration Act 2014.
As a landlord, you will now have to check that tenants over the age of 18 have the legal right to rent a residential property in England (even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement or there is no tenancy agreement in place).
This applies to most residential tenancies, but it does not apply to social housing and care homes.
Landlords must now find out which adults will be living at the property as their main home or only home, and they must make sure they see the original documents providing tenants with the right to live in the UK.
People who have the right to rent include anyone:
- who holds a British or European Economic Area passport
- who has a right of abode
- with an indefinite leave to remain
- with no time limit on their stay
Checking the Documents
Checking the original documents is one of the main duties for landlords. To do this:
- Make sure the documents belong to the tenant and that they are genuine and original
- The tenant must be present when you check them
- Check that the photo is of the tenant
- Make sure the date of birth is the same in each document
- The right to stay must not have expired
- Documents should be undamaged and unmodified
You can find a useful user guide to document checks here.
When you check the documents, you should make a copy of each one for your records, making sure you copy every page with their details, and also make a record of the date you make the check.
You should then keep these copies throughout the tenancy and for one year after it ends.
Importantly, you will also have to follow data protection law, details of which you can find here.
When the Documents Are with the Home Office
The documents may be with the Home Office, in which case you will have to use the landlord's checking service – you will find this here, and you can call the helpline on 0300 069 9799. The tenant should have a Home Office reference number that you can use.
When the Tenant's Permission is Limited
If you find that the tenant's permission to live in the UK is limited, you need to make a further check, otherwise you can be given a fine (a civil penalty) if their permission time runs out during the residency.
You should make this check before their expiry date or 12 months after the previous check has been made. If you find that the tenant's time has run out, you must inform the Home Office, or again you could receive a fine.
If you do not carry out the check and you end up renting your property to someone who does not have the right to rent, you could receive a fine of £3,000.
Know the Facts
As a landlord or agent, it is your responsibility to comply with the new Right to Rent rules, so make sure you understand exactly what you have to do. This link at Gov.uk provides full details of the process, so read through it and make sure you contact the authorities if you are in any doubt about what you have to do – rather than risking a fine for failing to comply.