Provisions in the Immigration Act 2014 mean that residential landlords will have to check that their prospective tenants have a right to live and occupy premises in the UK before a tenancy is entered into.
These new rules are currently being piloted in the West Midlands and the Home Office will evaluate the pilot in Spring 2015 but fully expect to phase in the rules in all parts of the UK during the remainder of 2015.
What do landlords have to do? The most common scenario is a grant of a new AST but landlords will have to follow the new rules when an existing tenancy is either varied to allow new adults to occupy or assigned to new occupiers.
A landlord (or their agent) must do one of the following:
- Obtain documents from their prospective tenant that show the tenant has the right to live in the UK, take steps to verify those documents and then copy or record their contents (originals to be returned to the tenant);
- Obtain a Positive Right to Rent Notice from the Landlord Checking Service. This service assists landlords if they cannot obtain documents from their tenant e.g. if the documents are with the Home Office.
The Home Office has set up a “right to rent” tool on its website and provided a helpline number: 0300 069 9799. There is however not a huge amount of ongoing assistance available for a landlord to ensure that their tenant’s right to rent does not lapse, which is part of the landlord’s responsibility. It is a very onerous obligation which landlords could easily fall foul of and a breach of the law could lead to a fine of up to £3,000.
One very important exemption for our region is student accommodation. University/college halls of residence are exempt, as is accommodation owned and managed by universities, charitable bodies or private organisations used wholly or mainly for accommodation for students. Any private landlord renting to higher or further education students are not required to check the student’s documents before renting to them provided the student has been nominated by a higher or further education institution. It is advisable to retain evidence of the nomination throughout the tenancy and for at least 1 year after it ends.
The Government has published these guides to assist landlords:
- Avoiding unlawful discrimination when conducting “right to rent” checks in the private rented residential sector
- How do I make “right to rent” checks
- Landlords’ guide to checking immigration documents
- Civil penalty scheme for landlords and their agents
Making residential landlords (and agents) part of the political agenda and responsible for border control is rather harsh but these new rules are coming to a town near you soon.
Director – Lupton Fawcett Denison Till