Right to Rent Checks for Landlords

Do have the Right to Rent?                       

So you think you have found the right tenant. They seem nice, they can afford the rent, and they are keen to move in right away. The good news is that they do turn out to be lovely people, who take good care of your property, are kind to the neighbours and always pay on time.

So why do you now have a £3000 fine to pay because you took them as tenants?

From 1st February 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all landlords in England to check whether the person you are renting to have the right to reside in this country. This is known as “Right to Rent” checks, and if you get it wrong you’re liable for up to £3000 in fines. Effectively this means you now work for the UK Border Force, helping to catch illegal immigrants, and they will dock the salary (which they don’t pay you) if you fail to catch one.

Bonkers, but true.

Anyway, those are the laws of the land, and you need to know how to stick to them. You must take copies of one of these commonly available documents, and keep them for your records. Unfortunately, if you get over-zealous with the checks you could be accused of racial profiling, so the government has drawn up codes of practice to make sure you don’t get prosecuted for that, instead. Nice of them, eh? Remember – it’s against the law to only check people you suspect might not be British citizens. You must check anyone who is over 18, if they are going to be living at your property (even if they are not on the tenancy agreement), even if they are a lodger in your own home.

“When you copy the documents:

Make a copy that can’t be changed, e.g. a photocopy or a good quality photograph

For passports, copy every page with the expiry date or applicant’s details (e.g. nationality, date of birth and photograph), including endorsements, egg a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK

Copy both sides of biometric residence permits

Make a complete copy of all other documents

Record the date you made the copy

Keep copies of the tenant’s documents for the time they’re your tenants and for one year after.”

            - Government advice

If you discover they have a limited period in which they can remain in the UK, you must make a check again either just before their permission runs out, or 12 months after your initial check (whichever is sooner). If you don’t do this, you can be fined. If you do it but don’t call the Home Office and tell them you know someone who’s right to remain has expired, you can be fined.  Good, eh?

You don’t actually have to evict them, although you’d be within your rights to do so as long as you follow the correct processes. Personally, even though I disagree with these laws, I’d advise letting the Home Office know, and then allowing the tenant to stay (unless you had another reason to get rid of them). Chances are, the Home Office will take ages to getting around to doing anything about it, so why should you be hunting for another tenant meanwhile? More importantly, from a humanitarian point of view, if the tenant’s right to remain has expired, and you evict them, they will be unable to find anywhere else to live (because they won’t pass the next Right to Rent check).  The theory here is that they will fly back to their homeland – the reality is that they’ll probably end up homeless and lose their job. It’s an emotive issue – and it’s your decision to make.

Luckily, you can avoid all the stress and risks here if you have a written agreement with your letting agent to show that they will do these checks on your behalf. Since we do these, day in and day out, have specialist software for keeping tabs on such issues, and already conduct very thorough referencing of tenants, we’ve never had an issue. Nevertheless, I hope that helps you to understand the issues if you decide to do the work yourself.

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