As of 1 December 2014, Landlords have greater obligations to vet their tenants when granting a tenancy.

The right to rent checks currently only apply to:

  • Landlords, homeowners and letting agents in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.
  • All adults aged 18 and over living at the property.
  • New tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014.

Failure to comply and allowing someone to live in your property who doesn’t have the right to rent, could result in the landlord being fined up to £3,000.

Key terms / commonly asked questions

Q) What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A) A tenancy, lease, licence, sub-lease or sub-tenancy which grants a right of occupation for premises for residential use, provides for the payment of rent, and is not an excluded agreement.

Q) Who is a landlord?

A) A person who lets or licenses accommodation for use by one or more adults as their only or main home. This includes people who take in lodgers and can include tenants who sublet their rented property. This may include agents who have accepted responsibility for complying with the Scheme on behalf of landlords.

Q) Who is a tenant/occupier?

A) Is the person or persons, aged 18 or over, to whom the residential tenancy agreement is granted, and ‘Occupier’ means a person who is, or who will be, authorised to occupy the property under the residential tenancy agreement, whether or not they are named on that agreement.

Q) What is a right to rent?

A) The right to be allowed to occupy residential accommodation in the UK by virtue of qualifying immigration status.

What a landlord must do

  • Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords now need to see evidence of a person's identity and citizenship, for example, a passport or a biometric residence permit.
  • In cases where a passport cannot be produced, landlords can request further checks via a government website
  • The website link provided also confirms whether the obligation exists on the Landlord to undertake the checks.
  • Landlords must treat all prospective tenants fairly and in the same way to avoid discrimination.

The easiest way to be fair and consistent is if landlords provide information to prospective tenants, or supply an information pack, they could also include a reminder that the successful tenant, or short-listed tenants, will be required to produce original, acceptable documents, which include documentary proof of their right to rent (this applies to all tenants/occupiers not just some of them or the person entering into the agreement).

Commentary

Securities Minister James Brokenshire said the rules would "act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out overcrowded and unsafe accommodation". It is unclear how this requirement seeks to prevent overcrowding and unsafe conditions which are dealt with under Landlord’s obligation more generally. But rather seems to be an onerous obligation on Landlords to conduct ‘state affairs’ which could have direct consequences on their pockets rather than a protection tool for the tenants.

The Home Office has said following an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands next spring, it expected to "continue with the phased introduction of checks across the UK next year".

Just as employers have a duty to check an employee’s ‘right to work’ is seems it will soon become commonplace for a Landlord to conduct its ‘right to rent’ checks. There will no doubt be a period of nervousness and confusion amongst Landlords about the new regime and whilst they are advised to be cautious they must also refrain from discriminating any potential tenant.