New legislation means that all private landlords in England now have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting a property.
The regulations also extend to those who sub-let or take in lodgers, although this responsibility can be given to your letting agent as part of a written agreement.
The penalties for ignoring the new legislation are severe. For the first time an agent/landlord breaches the rules, a fine of £1,000 per illegal adult occupier will apply, rising to £3,000 per adult for repeat offenders.
The legislation requires landlords to carry out extensive checks to ensure a tenant has British, EEA or Swiss nationality. If the prospective tenant is of a different nationality, their visa or passport will have to be checked to see if they have a right to rent.
Here’s our quick guide to help you stay on the right side of the law:
1. Obtain original versions of acceptable documents which prove right to rent. For unlimited right to rent occupiers, checks can be made at any point prior to a tenancy agreement being made, although this should be within 28 days for time-limited rentals. Acceptable documents go beyond simple passport checks and a full list can be found on the relevant Government website (details below)
2. Check the documents in the presence of the holder. This can be done either in person, or via a live video link and agents must check that the documents appear genuine and belong to the occupier presenting them. Pay close attention to photographs and ensure details such as date of birth are consistent across documents and record any discrepancies.
3. Consider whether the number of occupiers planning to reside at the property is reasonable for its size and type.
4. Make copies of all documents and retain them with a record of the date checked. Copies should be made in a format that cannot be edited later, e.g. photocopied, PDFs etc and that they are retained securely either electronically or in hard copy.
5. Carry out follow up checks on time-limited right to rent occupiers. If an occupier no longer has the right to rent, or if the tenant’s visa expires, the landlord or agent does not need to evict the tenant, but should make a report to the Home Office in writing by post or email.
6. Rentals that are excluded include local authority tenants; job-tied accommodation; student accommodation where a student has been nominated by a higher educational institution; and long leases of at least 7 years.
7. Before dismissing a prospective tenant, it is important that landlords make all the necessary checks. However, landlords must also be careful that, in checking up on tenants, they cannot be accused of discrimination under the Equality Act.
This new legislation is an additional burden on landlords and once more points to the benefit of appointing a managing agent such as us for complete peace of mind in an increasingly complex regulatory environment.
Further information and the government’s code of practice can be found HERE
Neil Newstead, FARLA MNAEA
Chief Executive Officer