Aside from the future of the NHS, one of the major political causes in the public eye is that of border control. Recent legislation has drafted landlords into this particular battle with the Right to Rent provisions. These were introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 and are in force from 1st February 2016.
“Right to Rent” effectively places the responsibility for checking a potential tenant’s right to live in the UK on the landlord, including landlord’s agents, subletting leaseholders and those taking in lodgers. Excluded from the provisions are local authorities, social housing, mobile homes, student accommodation and long leases. However almost all private landlords letting out properties under Assured Shorthold Tenancies will be required to make the checks.
The Right to Rent check that landlords and their agents must carry out includes:
- Checking the identity of anyone who will use the rented property as their only/main place of residence.
- Checking that they have a right to live in the UK, including requiring that the tenant show the original documents. A landlord will be required to look over these documents and check that they are genuine and relate to the individuals who will be living in the property (i.e. that all names etc. match).
- Keeping copies of the documents and note the date that the check was made.
If the tenant’s right to remain is of limited duration the following additional provisions apply;
- The check must be carried out in the 28 days before commencement of the tenancy.
- The check must be repeated within 12 months or just before the expiry of the residence period, and if the tenant’s right to remain has expired the landlord has a duty to tell the Home Office.
- If the Home Office holds the tenant’s documentation then the Landlord may request that they perform the check.
Failure to carry out Right to Rent checks can result in landlords being fined up to £3,000. A full Code of Practice can be found here.
What does this mean in practice? Few landlords are likely to relish being made a part of the government’s policies in such a direct manner. The provisions create more work and come with a severe penalty. A landlord is not, for example, an expert in forged documentation, and may not relish becoming a government-mandated informer. The new measures seem likely to cause additional stress for both landlords and tenants, especially the most vulnerable, and to inject additional tensions into landlord-tenant relations which have plenty of potential for problems already. In the worst case it may simply mean that landlords will refuse to rent to any tenant who looks as though they may cause a Right to Rent problem, whether for fear of the fine or simply to avoid the extra paperwork, thus locking an innately vulnerable section of the population out of the private rented sector.