From the 1 February 2016 before granting a tenancy or a licence, landlords or their managing agents (if they accepted the responsibility) will have to check the immigration status of all individuals aged over 18, including sub tenants, lodgers and family members; essentially everyone who occupies the property as their main dwelling that is not a child or a guest.

When must a rent check be undertaken?

  • For prospective occupiers checks should be undertaken at any time before the tenancy agreement is entered into.
  • For occupiers with limited right to rent, a check must be undertaken and recorded within the 28 days before the tenancy agreement is entered into.
  • Where it is not possible to undertake a rent check prior to a tenancy being granted i.e. if the occupier is abroad, landlords are allowed to undertake the right to rent check before taking up occupation.

How to undertake a rent check

Step 1: Establish who lives at the property

Landlords should make reasonable enquiries of the prospective tenant about the people who live in the property and keep records of what enquiries are made and the responses obtained. Factors the landlord will want to consider will include whether the reported number of occupiers is proportionate to the size and type of property and whether the property will be used as the occupiers’ main dwelling. Check to see if the occupier has family ties or works in the local area as this will be a sign that the property will be used as their main dwelling.

Step 2 : Documents to check and copy

Landlords should see an original copy of all relevant occupiers’ passports or citizenship ID within the presence of the holder and retain a photocopy together with a record of when the original was inspected for at least a year after the tenancy ends. To check what ID is suitable click here. If an occupier does not have relevant ID, a Landlord can check the immigration status by using the Home Office Checking System (access here).

Step 3: Follow up Checks

A follow up check is required if an occupier’s permission to stay in the UK and right to rent is time-limited. The check will need to be done before the latest of the following dates:

  • 12 months after the last check;
  • the date your permission to stay in the UK runs out;
  • the date your passport (or other document showing your right to be in the UK) expires.

If tenants later sign up to another tenancy agreement at the same property no further check is needed provided nobody new moves into the property.

Failing to undertake the rent check

Failing to undertake the rent check can lead to a civil penalty of between £1000 to £3000 (the later sum being reserved for repeat offenders) for each adult living in the property.

If you find an occupier does not have the right to rent then you must report them to the Home Office as soon as reasonably practicable and then proceed to follow the normal eviction process.

Overall I expect the new legislation will not impact too harshly on landlords who already should as a matter of best practice be obtaining not only ID but two references and I suggest the national insurance number from all tenants. The new regulations do though go a step further and require ID from all occupiers – not a terrible idea given that it allows landlords to keep track of everyone living in their property.

For more information click here.