New Right to Rent law applies February 2016

From 1st February 2016 Landlords and their Letting Agent are legally obligated to check the immigration status of their tenants and face a hefty fine if they don't.

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It has now been announced by the Government that the Right to Rent scheme, which was introduced in the Immigration Act 2014, will now be rolled out nationally from 1 February 2016.

From 1 February 2016 all private landlords in England, including those who sublet or take in lodgers, will have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property. Under the new rules landlords who fail to check a potential tenant's Right to Rent will face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant.

Under the scheme, landlords should check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies. The Government states that the scheme has been designed to make it straightforward for people to prove their Right to Rent. There is a range of commonly available documents which can be used. These include:

A British passport
An EU or EEA passport or identity card
A permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
A Home Office immigration status document
A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British Citizen

If a prospective tenant cannot produce one of the above then you can take a combination of any two of the following documents, the documents must be dated to show that they were issued within the last three months and must contain the name of the prospective tenant:

A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland which shows the name of at least one of the holder's parents
A letter from a UK Government department or Local Authority confirming the holder's name
Evidence of the holder's previous or current service in any of HM UK armed forces
Letter from a UK further or higher education institution confirming the holder has been accepted on a course
A current full or provisional UK driving licence
Benefits paperwork issued by HMRC, a Local Authority or Job Centre Plus

If a prospective tenant provides you with one of these documents at the start of the tenancy then there is no need for a repeat check, although landlords need to take care to ensure that any other adult who seems to be in occupation from time to time has the Right to Rent.

When you are checking the validity of the documents this must take place in the presence of the holder and you must be in possession of the original documents.

The Government state that landlords, or their agents, are not expected to be an expert on any of the various documents that might be produced but you must be sure that the person presenting the document is the person referred to in that document. Accordingly, if for any reason you are not sure (i.e. the photograph produced does not look like the prospective tenant) we recommend that you call the Governments Helpline.

You must keep a record of every document you have checked either a hard copy or a scanned document (as a PDF) and the copy must be kept for the duration of the tenancy and for a 12 month period after the tenancy ends. You must also keep a record of the date on which you carried out the check, either by dating the copy or holding a separate record of the dates you carried out the checks.

The Home Office Landlords Helpline can offer general advice on understanding immigration documents and can be contacted on 0300 069 9799.
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