From 1 February 2016, landlords of residential property in England must carry out a rent check to ensure potential tenants have the right to rent in the UK.
This is one of a number of reforms to the immigration system brought about by the Immigration Act 2014 with one aim in mind: to deter those without the right to be in the UK from remaining in the UK.
Although it is estimated that the change will affect 1.8 million landlords it has been widely reported that, with the reforms already in their ninth month, many landlords still do not fully understand their new obligations.
What, and when?
Under the Act, landlords must undertake a rent check on prospective tenants before a tenancy agreement is entered into.
In the case of tenants whose right to stay in the UK is limited, a rent check must be undertaken within 28 days of the commencement of a tenancy agreement.
There is no requirement to check the rights of existing tenants who moved in before 1 February 2016.
Landlords should establish in advance who will live in the property as their main home then, in the presence of the prospective tenants, check and copy relevant original documents as listed by the legislation, one from list A (if the holder has the right to rent indefinitely) or two from list B (if the holder has a limited right to rent).
A follow-up check is also required if a tenant’s right to rent is limited.
Failing to undertake a rent check can lead to a penalty of up to £3,000 per adult tenant found to be living in the property.
Landlords who have accepted a false document will also be penalised if it is reasonably apparent that the document is false.
If a rent check shows that a tenant’s right to stay in the UK has expired, a landlord must make a report to the Home Office as soon as practicable.
Although some may argue that this new law is driven by fears over immigration, creating onerous bureaucracy that will disadvantage the most vulnerable in society, leaving immigration issues aside it is surely an advantage for a landlord to know who their tenants are.
Partner, Commercial Property department
George Ide, LLP
Solicitors of Chichester and Bognor Regis