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.