Why landlords must carry out immigration checks
Estate and letting agents are warning that confusion over new Right To Rent legislation could leave landlords facing fines of up to £3000.
A spokesman for central London estate and letting agent Plaza Estates explains that landlords must check that every tenant or lodger at a residential address in England has the right to remain in the UK if the tenancy agreement starts on or after 1 February 2016.
And if the property is in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley or Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, landlords must check a renter’s immigration status if their tenancy started on or after 1 December 2014.
Landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s Right To Rent will face penalties of up to £3000 per individual.
The new rules apply to all private landlords, including those who sub-let or take in lodgers, a spokesman for Fulham estate and letting agent Lawsons & Daughters points out.
This means that landlords who let a property to a family of four adults who do not have the right to remain in the UK face a possible penalty of £12,000.
The good news, however, is the legislation is not retrospective. Existing occupiers who moved into a property before February do not need to have their immigration status examined.
How to stay on the right side of the law
The Home Office has issued a statement saying letting agents and landlords should already be conducting Right To Rent checks now – even though the measure becomes compulsory on February 1.
A a spokesman for letting specialist Assetgrove explains that this is because under the regulations for Right To Rent in England, which are found in Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, the checks can be conducted up to 28 days before the start of a tenancy – so anyone being checked now will qualify.
There are four steps involved when carrying out a Right To Rent check.
1 Establish which adults will be using the property as their only or main home.
2 Request original documents from the occupiers
3 Check these documents in the presence of the prospective tenants
4 Once satisfied that a prospective tenant has the right to remain in the UK, make copies of the documents and keep them safe alongside details of the date the check was made
The government says that acceptable documents include
- UK passport
- EEA passport or identity card
- Permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
- Home Office immigration status document
- Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
Anybody carrying out a Right To Rent check needs to ensure that the ID or documents are original and belong to the prospective tenant, the dates of birth are the same across all documents and the evidence doesn’t appear to have been altered in any way. There may be occasions where the names differ from one document to another, such as if an individual has married since the passport or national ID card was issued. In such cases, supporting documents, such as a marriage certificate, must be provided.
When making copies of documents, landlords must photocopy every page of a passport. If obtaining a biometric residence permit, both sides must be photocopied. The date the photocopy is made must be recorded along with all other documentation. Landlords must keep all copies for a full year after the tenants have left the property.
Who needs to carry out the checks?
According to the government, it will be necessary to carry out identity and legal residency checks if you are:
- A property owner letting out to private residents
- A property owner allowing one or more lodgers to live with them
- A tenant sub-letting a property to others
Property owners can hand responsibility for Right To Rent checks to an agent, but written evidence must be logged to prove that both parties are happy with the arrangement. If an agent was to accept responsibility for Right To Rent checks but then failed to comply with the legislation, they could be liable for a civil penalty.
Tenants who sub-let a property could transfer their Right To Rent check responsibility to their landlord. However, both parties must agree and there needs to be written evidence to prove the landlord has accepted responsibility.