As of the 1st February, landlords who let out properties in England now have to carry out compulsory ‘right to rent’ checks to make sure any potential tenants have the right to rent property in the UK.
What does a ‘right to rent’ check mean?
Under the new immigration rules, landlords are now expected to check their tenants’ immigration documents (such as a passport) before agreeing to a tenancy to make sure that the documents are original, belong to the tenant and have not expired. Landlords also have to make regular ongoing checks to make sure any valid documents haven’t expired. The scheme is part of the government’s new initiative to “create a hostile environment for illegal migrants”.
If a landlord is found to have let property to a person who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK, landlords can be fined up to £1,000 the first time it happens, and £3,000 for any subsequent breach.
What are the problems of ‘right to rent’ checks?
According to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), landlords are currently struggling to get to grips with the new rules. Their figures indicate that 90% of the 1,500 landlords the RLA surveyed hadn’t received any information from the government about their new duties, and 72% did not understand their new obligations.
One of the main issues is that landlords may not be familiar with the range of acceptable immigration documents. Landlords are allowed to accept valid passports, but can also accept EEA identity cards, UK driving licenses, biometric residence permits, certificates of naturalisation and registration as a British Citizen. While some might be familiar, others may be difficult to recognise and therefore check. For instance, letters from HM Prison Service, universities or local authorities.
Another issue is that these new rules could put landlords in a difficult position. The RLA also said its members now face a difficult choice thanks to ‘right to rent’ checks. For instance landlords could “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.
Tenants and ‘right to rent’ checks
Of course, the new rules also pose problems for tenants without passports. This is particularly problematic for homeless people, who may not hold a passport or visa and could face difficulties when trying to obtain one. These new rules may make it even more difficult for the homeless to get back into secure, rented accommodation.
If you’re a landlord and struggling to get to grips with the new rules and ‘right to rent’ checks, you can find more information on the government’s website here. Or, you can give our helpful solicitors a call to get expert advice for just £68.
If you’re a tenant and worried about how ‘right to rent’ could affect you, or if they are already affecting you and a landlord has turned you down, call our experts today for the legal help you need.
You can call us on 0203 002 4898, or email [email protected] We’re open 7 days a week and always happy to help.