Right to Rent – All you need to know

Yesterday, the government announced that from February 2016, all agents and private landlords need to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting a property out. Failure to follow these regulations may result in a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant.

The “Right to Rent” scheme was piloted in parts of the West Midlands since December 2014 to assess the Immigration Act 2014 which tries to build a more effective immigration system. Since then, the scheme has fined one landlord for non-compliance and unearthed 109 illegal immigrants and today’s announcement marks the start of the national roll-out of the scheme.

As part of Right to Rent, landlords and agents need to check the identity of each tenant and take copies of the documents provided. Amongst others, these documents include:

  • a UK passport
  • a European Economic Area passport or identity card
  • a permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
  • a Home Office immigration status document
  • a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

A full list of acceptable forms of identification can be found here.

The Government designed the scheme to be straight-forward and for many, the new regulations are already being complied with. In most cases, the home office will not need to be contacted, however, if there are any concerns or if a tenant has an outstanding immigration application or Home Office appeal, then landlords and agents can ask for a Home Office Right to Rent check. A simple “yes” or “no” answer will be provided within 2 working days of the request.

Though landlords and agents need to check the immigration status of each tenant, they must be mindful that they also need to avoid unlawful discrimination. The Human Rights Commission has published codes of practice which give guidance on how to properly perform the Right to Rent checks whilst also avoiding unlawful discrimination.

If it is found that an illegal migrant is living within the property and the Right to Rent checks have not been done, then the landlord or agent may be liable for a civil penalty which means you could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant.