Right to rent checks by landlords have been requested by the Government following the 2014 Immigration Act. The checks expected to be carried out have brought about much controversy, particularly with landlords. The check’s may seem simple enough, but there’s a lot to consider when carrying them out.
The government has had a much stricter focus when dealing with right to rent. No formal training is given to show what the checks require. Landlords, however, risk facing serious fines if they fail to correctly check their tenants’ ‘right to rent’. For first time offences, a landlord can expect to pay £1,000 per person without a right to rent, whilst repeat offences will cost £3,000. Although it is yet to happen, there is also the possibility of 5 years imprisonment if the checks are neglected. February 1st 2016 was the start of the serious enforcement of right to rent checks in England.
Following the Right to Rent guidelines
As a landlord, you are not expected to be an immigration official. Your job description doesn’t include keeping illegal immigrants out of the country, so don’t get too stressed about that. The most important thing for you to do is prove you carried out the checks properly prior to the start of any tenancy. Completing a right to rent check gives you a statutory excuse even if the documents turn out to be forged. If your tenants don’t have a right to rent check after all, you will still be covered. To really prevent any chance of being fined, you should:
- Have evidence that you completed the check
- Keep a record of the result of the check
- Document the date it was done and name of the person carrying out the check
- Save copies of the identification documents you were given
You should check within the 28-day window before a new tenancy agreement begins. For tenants coming from abroad, arrange a meeting to check their original documents as soon as they arrive. You can include a clause which allows you to retract the original rental agreement if their ID is not valid. Additionally, you can claim funds back which you would lose from the loss of tenants and the need to find new ones. Even after your tenancy agreement ends, there could still be instances where your checks could be useful. We recommend you keep any copies of ID and evidence of the checks for at least a year after you do them.
Who do I check?
Every single qualifying individual over the age of 18 must have their ‘right to rent’ checked. This applies regardless of whether they are the main name on the tenancy agreement or not. If teenagers will be living there, you may check to ensure they are under 18, particularly if you have any suspicions. Again, you should keep a copy of their ID as proof.
How do I check the documents?
The most important thing for you, as a landlord, to check is the identification documents of your tenants. It’s vital that you see the tenant’s face and original documents together, whether in person or through video. Because you must check every individual person, it is important you see all of them in the room with their document. ID documents must prove identity, nationality and right to rent. The documents which qualify for proof of identity depend on whether it is ‘permanent’ or ‘time-limited’ right to rent. For UK nationals and those from the EEA (countries in the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) with permanent right to rent, a passport is sufficient. Anyone who needs to prove their ‘time-limited’ right to rent or can’t show their identity, other documents can be used. A driver’s licence, benefits paperwork or a letter from their employer will all act as adequate evidence.
When you have the documents, the government want you to check them in case they may be forgeries. Again, you are not expected to be experts in counterfeited documents. However, if anything stands out as unusual you should be alert to it. Signs a document may be forged include:
- Different fonts or ink smudges
- Texture of paper
- Details which don’t add up (like age)
You should also pay greater attention to any documents which look to be in bad condition or very worn. The messiness of the ID may be used as a distraction from the fact it is a fake.
Clear Right to Rent guidance
Gov.uk have a clear step-by-step guide which specifies everything you should do when checking for right to rent. You can read it here.
As letting agents in Nottingham, Slater and Brandley continues to support landlords in all areas of Right to Rent. We ground our work in clear communication, good service and trust, ensuring all our customers are well looked after. For information on any of the above or advice on anything relating to letting your property either visit us online or call us on 0115 981 9651.