Stephanie Charman highlights some useful ways to help landlords check their tenants’ ‘right to rent’.

From 1 February 2016 (December 1st 2014 in the West Midlands), landlords that let private rented accommodation must ensure they have completed a ‘right to rent check’ for all new tenants that began their tenancy on or after 1 February 2016. This is to ensure that the landlord’s tenants have the right to live in the UK before letting the property to them.

The government has designed the scheme with the help of a panel of industry experts, which included trade bodies, charities and local authorities. The government wants to update the landlord code of practice to include changes to the acceptable document list tenants can provide, whilst also making it as user friendly as possible. This is all part of the wider, stronger but fairer reform on immigration that the government wish to make.

Who is responsible?

Currently, any landlord that is found letting property to someone who isn’t a relevant national or in the country lawfully, could receive a penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant. For those using agents to rent out their property, they must ensure that the letting agents carry out the checks if they’re acting on a landlord’s behalf and have agreed to do them. These checks also apply when renting out a part or all of their home when taking in a lodger or subletting.

Someone who isn’t a relevant national but has permission to enter or remain in the UK also has a right to rent, but follow-up checks must be made by the landlord or agent. A relevant national can be either a British citizen, EEA national or a Swiss national. All of these can rent accommodation, but evidence that they are a relevant national must still be provided.

What is the right to rent tool?

When talking to your clients about their buy to let property, it is good for them to know that there is currently an online tool which can help them. The tool guides landlords through the process of checking if their tenants have the right to rent residential property in the UK, which will be mandatory procedure from 1 February. If they find that a tenant can no longer legally rent the property, they are asked to contact the Home Office, or face a fine for non-disclosure.

The government have released an online tool and a checklist . Both these tools will help landlords prepare for any checks imposed and ensure they have all the necessary documents and have asked all the questions of their tenants. There is also a full list of acceptable documents for proving relevant nationality available.

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