Right to rent immigration checks introduced for landlords
As of 1 February 2016, landlords have been required to check tenants’ “right to rent”. This comes as a result of the Immigration Act 2014, under which if landlords are found to be letting to someone who does not have a right to be in the UK, and the landlords failed to carry out the proper checks, they risk becoming liable to a civil penalty with a fine of up to £3000.
Landlords must now check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent their property in England. Checks must be made in respect of tenants aged 18 or over even if:
- they’re not named on the tenancy agreement
- there’s no tenancy agreement
- the tenancy agreement isn’t in writing.
- Landlords must now check which adults will live at their property as their only or main home. A property would usually be a tenant’s only or main home if:
- they live there most of the time
- they keep most of their belongings there
- their partner or children live with them
- they’re registered to vote at the property
- they’re registered with the doctor using that address.
- Landlords must see the original documents that allow the tenant to live in the UK.
- Landlords must check that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant, with the tenant present. Landlords must check:
- the documents are originals and belong to the tenant
- the dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired
- the photos on the documents are of the tenant
- the dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
- the documents aren’t too damaged or don’t look like they’ve been changed
- if any names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, e.g. marriage certificate or divorce decree.
- Landlords must make and keep copies of the documents and record the date the checks were made. Landlords must:
- make a copy that can’t be changed, eg a photocopy or a good quality photograph
- for passports, copy every page with the expiry date or applicant’s details (eg nationality, date of birth and photograph), including endorsements, eg a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK
- copy both sides of biometric residence permits
- make a complete copy of all other documents
- record the date the copies were made
- keep copies of documents until one year after the end of the tenancy.
- If tenants are unable to supply original documents because they are with the Home Office (because of an immigration application or appeal), then the Home Office offers a landlord checking service.
For new tenants with limited leave to remain, landlords must make checks at least 28 days before the start of the tenancy and before agreeing the tenancy. In the case of those moving to the UK from overseas, however, landlords are allowed to check a person’s original documents before occupation of the property rather than before the start of the residential tenancy agreement, though presumably, this still requires landlords to have undertaken some due diligence, such as viewing copies of the documents which will be relied upon.
In addition, for those with limited leave to remain in the UK, landlords will be expected to make further checks on their tenants shortly before either the expiry date of the tenant’s right to stay in the UK, or 12 months after the previous check, whichever is later.
In the event that tenants do not pass this further check, then landlords must inform the Home Office.
For advice and assistance with complying with Home Office right to rent checks, or challenging a right to rent check penalty, contact our UK immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or via our online enquiry form.