From 1 February 2016, all landlords in England will have to check their tenants’ right to rent for all types of Tenancy Agreements both written and oral.
Failing to do so, could mean a fine of up to £1000 per person not checked, rising to £3000 per person after the first offence of renting your property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK. These rules also relate to those sub-letting or taking in lodgers where a fine of up to £80 per person, rising to £500 per person after the first offence can apply.
The Government’s website (https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents) provides the documents which should be checked to confirm the proposed tenants’ right to rent in the UK. If, for example, the tenant provides a passport, then every page of the passport which contains the document expiry date, nationality, date of birth, signature, biometric details and photograph should be copied. The landlord should make a note of the date on which the check took place and retain those documents. In the case of a passport, the landlord should check that there is a true likeness of the holder. The date of birth should be consistent with any other instance of when the holder has provided their date of birth and should be plausible. The document should not appear to have been tampered with. The passport should contain an expiry date that can be accepted. If this date has lapsed and if the holder has a different name on the passport, it should only be accepted if there is a further supporting document which explains this such as a marriage or Deed Poll certificate. In these circumstances this document should be copied too. There are other documents which are too exhaustive to list in this article and you should make reference to the Government’s website above for further information.
You should check that the property would usually be the tenants’ only/main home (they live there most of the time), keep most of their belongings there, their partner or children live with them, they are registered to vote in the property and they are registered with a doctor using that address.
You will need to carry out further checks if the proposed tenant has restrictions on their right to stay in the UK. If the permission to stay is time limited, you will need to make another check on the tenant just before the expiry of their date of their right to be in the UK or 12 months after your first check.
You will not have to evict your tenants if they no longer have the right to rent.
Please note, you will get a fine if you make a repeat check and do not make a report to the Home Office saying that the tenants’ stay has run out or if you do not make a repeat check on a tenant who has a time limit for permission to stay in the UK.
You must retain copies of the tenants’ documents from the time that they are your tenants and for one year after.
In addition, you must follow Data Protection Law.
If you ordinarily use agents that manage or let your property, they will be able to carry out this check for you but you should have their agreement to do so in writing.
You are able to sign Tenancy Agreements before the checks are carried out but this should be conditional upon a successful check being carried out before they move into the property and within 28 days before the tenancy starts.
This only applies to new tenants after 1 February 2016 and therefore you do not need to check existing tenants.
In conclusion, the penalties are high, particularly if you have a number of tenants so you must spend the time making sure and documenting tenants’ rights to stay in the UK and keep hold of that information until at least one year after the tenancy ends.
Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004.