The Immigration Act 2014 came into force on 1st February 2016, making private sector landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of all adult tenants signing a new tenancy agreement.

Who is liable under the ‘right to rent’ scheme?

Conveyancing lawyer at Mansfield, Vili Chung said:

“These new rules apply to all residential landlords who let self-contained accommodation, occupiers who take in lodgers and tenants who sub-let a property.

“However, as they only apply to tenancy agreements where the property being let is their only or main home, it does not apply, for example to house guests or holiday accommodation.”

Letting agents will become liable only where a formal written agreement between them and the landlord exists, naming the agent as responsible for the ‘right to rent’ checks on all prospective tenants.

When does liability under ‘right to rent’ begin?

Up to 28 days before a new tenancy agreement comes into effect, landlords must carry out specific checks to ensure that they are renting their property to a tenant who has the right to live in the UK. These checks include:

– Establishing exactly which adults will live in the property as their main or only home.

– For each prospective ADULT tenant, the landlord must obtain, check and copy the original versions of one or more, of the acceptable documents to be used to establish a ‘right to rent’.

– In front of the tenant, the landlord must check and ensure that documents are genuine, that photographs and dates of birth are consistent with each occupier, and that expiry dates have not passed. If any of the documents confirm a ‘time-limited’ ‘right to rent’, then the landlord is responsible for further checks after the expiry date to ensure that ‘right to rent’ continues. If the follow-up checks indicate that the tenant no longer has the ‘right to rent’, then the landlord must make a formal report to the Home Office.

– Copies of all documents used to establish ‘right to rent’ must be noted with the date that the checks were made and then retained for a year after the tenancy ends.

Vili comments:

“Only when the correct checks have been carried out, does a landlord establish a statutory excuse to avoid liability for a civil penalty if it is later then found that the tenant does not have a ‘right to rent’.”

 Avoiding unlawful discrimination under ‘right to rent’

Vili says:

“Landlords must ensure they check the ‘right to rent’ of ALL prospective tenants, regardless of appearance, to ensure that they avoid falling foul of the Discrimination Act.

 “Landlords may also unlawfully discriminate if they offer tenants a shorter tenancy agreement to avoid carrying out further detailed checks after a ‘time-limited’ ‘right to rent’ has expired.”

Vili finishes:

“The Immigration Act 2014 confirms that the maximum civil penalty for not fulfilling obligations under ‘right to rent’ is £3,000 per tenant. Therefore we would urge all landlords, or letting agents, to ensure they comply with the new scheme.”