The top 7 things you need to know about Right to Rent

Geoff White

Policy Manager (RICS)

The Government’s new ‘Right to Rent’ legislation comes into force across England today — here are the top 7 things you need to know.

1. It applies to private landlords and people subletting

The Right to Rent scheme applies to private landlords with property in England, including people who are subletting their property or taking in lodgers.  Alternatively an agent can be appointed by a landlord to make Right to Rent checks on their behalf. Checks must be carried out on all adult occupants, and the rules apply to new tenancy agreements from 1 February 2016; existing tenancy agreements are not affected.

2. You could face a civil penalty

You could face a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant for renting your property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK.

3. You need to follow four steps to make a "check"

  1. Establish who will live at the property
  2. Obtain a tenant’s original acceptable documents
  3. Check the documents with the tenant present
  4. Copy and keep the copied documents on file and record the date of the check

If the tenant is only allowed to be in the UK for a limited period of time, you will have to carry out follow-up checks at a later date.

4. A variety of documents can be presented as evidence

  • UK passport
  • EEA passport or identity card
  • Permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
  • Home Office immigration status document
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
  • Two readily available and easily accessible documents from a wide list

View a full list of approved documents

Landlords are not expected to be immigration experts or to have specialist knowledge of immigration documents or VISAs. Anyone who is shown a false document will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent it is false.

5. A check will take place if a potential tenant has an outstanding case

If a person cannot show any of the acceptable documents, but states they have an outstanding immigration case with the Home Office, a landlord can request that the Home Office carry out a right to rent check online. The landlord will receive a clear "yes" or "no" response within two-working days.

Anyone who does not have internet access, or requires assistance completing the form, may call 0300 069 9799.

6. Landlords should make a report if an occupier no longer has the right to rent in the UK

Landlords should make a report to the Home Office if follow-up checks reveal that an occupier no longer has the right to rent in the UK. Landlords are encouraged to report suspected immigration abuse online or by calling 0800 555 111.

7. There are a few exemptions to consider

  • Some accommodation provided by local authorities
  • Student accommodation, where the student has been nominated by a higher education institution
  • Hostels and refuges
  • Company lets
  • Holiday accommodation
Looking for further information?

What is it?

Right to Rent refers to a person’s immigration status and whether this entitles them to rent property in the UK. A person may have a permanent Right to Rent, a time-limited Right to Rent or no Right to Rent

The Immigration Act 2014 makes private sector landlords responsible for checking whether prospective tenants have the Right to Rent before they enter into tenancy agreements. If they do not then they should not be granted tenancies.

In effect, many landlords will rely on letting agents to carry out the checks as part of the service that they offer and our members operating in the private rented sector should be well prepared for the new laws.

Landlords have the option to appoint an agent to act on their behalf. Where an agent has accepted responsibility for compliance with the Scheme, the agent will be the liable party in place of the landlord.

The arrangement must be recorded in writing and agreed by both parties.

Immigration Act 2014

Right to Rent is part of Government’s wider reforms to the immigration system which the government says will make it stronger, fairer and more effective.

Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 states that a landlord should not authorise an adult to occupy property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, a European Economic Area national, a Swiss national, or has some other Right to Rent in the UK, such as a time-limited visa. The status of all adults occupying the property must be checked whether or not they are named on the tenancy agreement.

Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected. The scheme is about deterring those without the right to live, work or study in the UK from staying here indefinitely.

What else it covers

As well as residential tenancy agreements, the legislation also covers licenses, sub-tenancies and lodging agreements. There are several areas that are exempt, including accommodation involving local authorities (including where an occupier is placed in a private rented property), social housing, care homes, hospitals, hospices, holiday lets, hostels, refuges, mobile homes, tied accommodation, student halls of residence and leases of seven years or more.

However, all of these areas have clauses and caveats which need to be fully read and understood by RICS members offering such services. The Home Office, under which immigration falls, has published a great deal of information on its web site, has set up Helpline and a Checking Service for cases where a person’s status is not clear.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire describes the new checks as ‘straightforward’ and not requiring any specialist knowledge.

Ahead of the scheme’s roll out, we have been working closely with an expert panel to make sure their feedback is taken on board and to design a scheme that is as simple and light touch as possible. Many responsible landlords have already been undertaking similar checks.

Our involvement and member feedback

As part of the Home Office Landlords’ Consultative Panel, we've played a key role in helping the government prepare advice for landlords and agents alike. The panel also included a wide range of trade bodies, local authorities and charities.

While we have worked with the government’s consultative panel to ensure the new scheme is introduced as simply as possible, our position from the start has been that it is unfair to expect landlords to act as an unpaid border security force. However, we're pleased to hear that, in a pilot project operated in the West Midlands, our members indicated that they have found it simple to introduce the Right to Rent checks as part of their service.

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