Solicitors Warn Landlords to Beware New Tenancy Checks
A Dorset and Somerset law firm is warning landlords of a looming deadline for the start of ‘right to rent’ immigration checks on new residential tenants.
Battens Solicitors says the crucial date is February 1 when the measures come into force nationwide under the Immigration Act.
Landlords will be required to carry out immigration checks on tenants living under all types of tenancies created on or after this date.
It applies to people aged 18 and over living in a property, whether they are named in the tenancy agreement or not, and must be carried out even if there is no written contract.
The far-reaching measures also apply to those providing homes to lodgers, sub-tenants and licensees.
Failures which result in a person without the right to rent living in their property could result in a fine of up to £3,000 per illegal occupant for the landlord.
Jacqui Swann, landlord and tenant specialist at Battens Solicitors, said: “This right to rent scheme has trialled in the West Midlands since October 2014 and has proved unpopular with landlords and tenants alike.
“However, this is a scheme that cannot be ignored. Landlords must prepare to carry out the relevant checks accurately and without discrimination to avoid facing severe penalties.”
People with the right to live in this country are British citizens, European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss nationals or adults who have obtained the right to rent in the UK.
Under the legislation, all landlords of privately rented properties are required to see original documentation proving a tenant’s right to reside in the country in their presence.
The documentation must be on approved lists provided by the Home Office and a note of the date of the check must be made.
Approved documents include passports, birth certificates, permanent residency cards and immigration documents issued by the Home Office.
Landlords must take a copy or electronic scan of the document and keep it to be shown at the request of the Home Office. This must be retained for the duration of the tenancy and for one year thereafter.
If a tenant has a limited right to live in the UK, it is the landlord’s responsibility to carry out continuing immigration checks so that the tenant does not continue to reside at the property if their right has lapsed.
Jacqui added: “It is important that landlords do not fall foul of discrimination laws in selecting tenants.
“Such conduct would include deliberately avoiding tenants with foreign names or accents or only selecting tenants with British passports.
“Doing so would expose them to potential claims for discrimination by rejected tenants.”
She urged landlords to check the identification of all tenants and retain copies of evidence even if they know the tenant is from the UK as this will offer some protection against claims of discrimination from other tenants against the landlord.
The legislation does not apply to existing tenancies or those created before 1 February 2016.
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Visit the Government’s website at www.gov.uk for more about documentation required for right to rent.