Right to Rent Checks

Right to Rent Checks

The new rules known as the “Right to Rent Checks” came in for the whole UK on February 1st, 2016. So, here is our Right to Rent checklist.

Yes, it is true, the government did a trial in the West Midlands and then either forgot to, or could not be bothered to evaluate it. They just rolled it out across the whole UK. Smart hey?

And yes, Mark Harper, the former Immigration Minister who designed most of this stuff, was found to be employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner. That is also true and yes, he lost his job. Really smart hey?

But enough of laughing at this small landlord loving government, (yes, I jest!), what about the checks. What do you have to do?

Well, the main thing you need to prove is not that the tenant has the right to rent in the UK, but that you have complied with the rules, so you don’t get fined. A subtle difference.

But don’t panic. Remember, you are not an immigration official employed by Border Patrol and keeping illegal immigrants out of the UK is not your full time job. Even this government is not that stupid.

All the same, the government requires you to carry out these relatively simple checks – so, whilst it is a pain and comes on top of the growing burden of admin that us landlords have to bear, you’ll just have to get on with it.

Here is what to do:

  • keep a record of the checks you did
  • Keep a record of the date the checks were done
  • keep a record of the name of the person doing the check (you or your agent)
  • keep a record of any questions asked and answers given (particularly if there are any suspicious circumstances) and
  • keep copies of the ID documents provided to you

You need to keep all this for at least one year after the tenancy ends.


Right to Rent Checks – Check Everybody

Well, everyone over 18 years of age that is.

This implies that in your tenancy agreements you should list everyone who will be living in the property, whether or not they are a tenant, and follow good practice by stating in the tenancy agreement that no-one else is allowed to live there without your permission (which will not be refused unreasonably, of course).

Oh, and by the way, these new rules apply not just to landlords of tenanted properties, but also to people taking in lodgers too, indeed anyone renting out property under a license and even to so called, “property guardians”.


Read the Online Right to Rent Guidance

The Home Office have loaded up a lot of new guidance recently and will almost certainly carry on doing this. So do take some time to read it.

One of the guides, the Right to Rent Documents Check User Guide  has detailed pictures of the relevant documents. Therefore, if you say OK to a document which is obviously different from the picture in the guidance you will potentially be in breach and vulnerable to a fine (which is £1,000 for a first offence rising to £3,000 thereafter).

You will find the online guidance all linked from here.

Although the government have said that they do not expect landlords to be forgery experts, they do expect you to be sensible and take proper precautions. For example:

  • Checking no discrepancies in dates on the paperwork provided
  • Making sure that the appearance of the person matches their ID photograph
  • Being extra careful where documents are in poor condition as this may be an attempt to disguise the fact that they are forged
  • Being curious if people are renting a property which appears too large for them – will they be bringing in unauthorised persons later?


Common Questions About Right to Rent Checks:

Who does checks on occupiers in company lets?

This will almost always be the company, as the company (your tenant) will be the landlord of the people they put in to occupy. This will also be the case if you allow tenants to sublet or take in lodgers, unless there is some sort of agreement to the contrary.

What about tenants signing tenancy agreements from abroad?

Here you need to make sure that the tenancy agreement is conditional upon a satisfactory Right to Rent check before they move in. So if they arrive and don’t pass – the tenancy agreement will not take effect.

And, no you are not liable for losses as a result – they are, as long as you made this clear, up front.

So, take a reservation fee and make it clear, you expect them to pass the checks. If they fail and this means you cannot let to them, they will lose their reservation fee.

What about existing tenants?

You don’t have to check them. Unless there is a change in the property or the tenants.

So if at renewal there is a new tenant or they take over another part of the building, you will have to check them all at that time. But otherwise, you won’t.

Other thoughts

Going forward, it is now even more a good idea to specify the total number of persons permitted to occupy the property – particularly useful for HMO properties. And, it should be good practice to notify tenants, for data protection purposes, that you will be holding information and that you may have to provide this to the Home Office in some circumstances.

There is a very useful online step by step guide that you can use when you are doing the checks, which tells you what you need to do: Click here.

If you are checking someone whose documents are not straightforward I would highly recommend that you follow this guide, as if you do what it says (so long as you keep a written record of what you do) you should avoid any problems.


It Will be Tougher on Non-EEA Applicants Looking to Rent in the UK

It’s my view that these checks have just made it a hell of a lot harder for people, from outside the European Economic Area (EU States plus Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Iceland) to rent in the UK. Faced with a tenant from one of these countries and one from say, India or from the USA, who were otherwise the same in all respects, most landlords will likely pick the easiest course of action and pick the Brit or the EEA national every time.

That’s the law of unintended consequences at work, once again!

And it will be interesting to see if any landlords ever go to court for not doing proper checks. And even if they do, will a case against them succeed? I suspect a court may well find the requirements placed on landlords are too onerous for them to be ever found guilty and have to pay a fine.


Find Out More About Right to Rent

I’m sure Right to Rent will be among other items discussed at our seminar on March 2nd, 2016. Hurry and book as spaces are running out: Landlord and Property Letting Seminar


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