Right to Rent checks - know the rules!
What is Right to Rent?
Since February 2016, residential landlords have been obliged to ensure that their tenants have a right to live, and rent property, in the United Kingdom. This duty to essentially check the nationality and/or immigration status of their prospective tenants is known as the Right to Rent. Landlords must ask their tenants to produce an original of one of the eligible documents (e.g. passports) and take copies of all relevant documents, to be retained for the duration of the tenancy and one year after the tenancy has come to an end. If a tenant is unable to produce the relevant documentation, landlords should request a Home Office right to rent check.
What are the penalties for failing to check tenants’ right to rent?
There are strict penalties in place for landlords who do not follow the Right to Rent rules. Fines of up to £1,000 can be imposed for first time offences, and up to £3,000 for subsequent failures. According to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) 75 landlords have been fined since the inception of Right to Rent. However, recent changes have also added a threat of prosecution in addition to fines (see below).
How do the recent Right to Rent changes affect landlords?
On 1st December 2016, additional provisions under the Immigration Act 2014 came into force, further tightening up the Right to Rent regime. Of particular concern to landlords is Section 39 of the Immigration Act, which introduces criminal sanctions for residential landlords who blatantly ignore their duties under the rules. Under section 39, a criminal offence will have been committed when a landlord (i) is aware, or has reasonable cause to believe, that their property is occupied by a tenant living unlawfully in the UK and (ii) fails to terminate the tenancy or take reasonable steps to terminate it. In this case, a prosecution can take place, with a custodial sentence of up to five years.
Other provisions related to Right to Rent which came into force were:
- Section 40 - this gives a power to residential landlords to terminate a tenancy if they have received notice from the Secretary of State that their tenants do not have a right to rent on account of their immigration status; and
- Section 41 - this allows landlords to serve an eviction notice subject to section 40.
The Property and Property Litigation teams at W H Matthews & Co can provide you with comprehensive advice on all aspects of Right to Rent and ensure that you remain compliant with the new rules. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.