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How to stay on top of Right to Rent checks and the story so far

Posted on 2015-04-13

Last year we witnessed the arrival of Right to Rent (R2R) checks, a government requirement for landlords – or their managing agent – to check that prospective tenants are legally allowed to rent in the UK.

After an initial outpouring of confusion, uproar and disillusionment on behalf of the UK property industry, it seems that the checks have been ushered in somewhat quietly. So, here's an update…

The story so far

Throughout early 2014 the proposed Immigration Bill was debated in parliament and in May it received royal assent, meaning it'd become law.

Under section 22 of the Act, landlords shouldn't authorise an adult to occupy their rental property unless the tenant has the right to rent.

The majority of tenants will be British citizens, European Economic Area or Swiss Nationals, who all have the right to rent in the UK. The rest must either have unlimited or time-limited right to rent in the UK by being present lawfully in accordance with immigration laws.

Of course, the headlines revolved around the fact that landlords who fail to carry out these checks could be liable for a fine of up to £3,000. However, what landlords and letting agents needed to know was when the checks would become mandatory and how they would have to undertake them.

In short, the checks involve a landlord needing to see a prospective tenant’s passport or a biometric residence permit, which is an official form of identification provided by the Home Office.

One of the issues raised when the idea of R2R checks first hit the headlines was whose responsibility would they be, the landlord or their letting agent? It soon emerged that it is the landlord who will be ultimately responsible, unless they agree and state in writing that it is the letting agent who will be responsible for the additional duties.

It was initially reported that the checks would become mandatory from October 2014 but in September a pilot scheme was announced that would begin on December 1st. The pilot scheme was set for the West Midlands, specifically the areas of Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The national rollout of the scheme was earmarked for spring 2015 but as yet no details have been issued by the Home Office.

Timeline

May 12th 2014 – Royal assent of Immigration Bill, meaning it'll become law for landlords to check immigration status of prospective tenants

May 19th 2014 – Government announces that Right to Rent checks will become mandatory from October

September 3rd 2014 – It's announced that the pilot scheme will begin on December 1st in nominated areas in the West Midlands

October 23rd 2014 – Government issues guidance for landlords and letting agents

December 1st 2014 – Right to Rent checks get underway in West Midlands pilot areas

December 1st 2014 – Association of Residential Letting Agents asks pilot agents for feedback

February 17th 2015 – Housing groups launch campaign which reports landlords in pilot areas are shunning foreign tenants to avoid checks

March 6th 2015 – Government issues pulse test to pilot agents and landlords to receive feedback

How can letting agents stay on top of R2R?

  • It's best practice to speak to all of your landlords about Right to Rent, even if they're intending to carry out the checks themselves. If your landlord wants you to carry out R2R checks they must agree it with you and put it in writing
  • If a letting agent establishes that someone doesn't have the right to rent in the UK they must then put it in writing to the landlord, whose responsibility it then is to report to the Home Office
  • The R2R checks will only apply to new tenancies and it’s important to note that, for the purposes of this Act, statutory periodic or rolling tenancies will not be deemed a new tenancy
  • The Home Office encourages landlords and agents to think of the checks in the three simple steps: Obtain, Check and Copy
  • This list is by no means exhaustive, check the official links below for full guidance…

Useful links

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/376788/Code_of_Practice_on_illegal_immigrants_and_private_rented_accommodation__web_.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-make-right-to-rent-checks

https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/lcs-application.ofml

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