The government has announced that, as from 1 February 2016, all private landlords granting tenancies for a term of less than 7 years will be required to carry out a "right to rent" check against the prospective tenants and any other authorised occupiers, to ascertain that they have the right to occupy the premises, and that the right to occupy will not lapse during the course of the tenancy.  These checks must be satisfied before the start of the tenancy and Landlords who fail to comply with the requirements face a fine of up to £3,000.

The right to rent test is based on the immigration status of the prospective tenant.  A person will be disqualified from occupying property under a residential tenancy agreement if they require leave to enter or remain in the UK and do not have it, or they have leave but it is subject to conditions that prevent them from occupying the premises.

Right to rent checks must be made against the tenant named in the tenancy agreement and all adults that will be living in the property as their only or main home.  This may include family members and domestic staff, but will not include non rent paying occasional guests.

In order to carry out the right to rent check landlords, (or their agents where it is agreed in writing that an agent will be responsible for compliance) will need to have sight of the tenant's original identity documents and will need to be satisfied that the documents are genuine.  In most cases this will involve meeting the tenant in person or via a live video link.  Landlords must keep records of the checks made including copies of all identification documents. If a landlord has any concerns, or a potential tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, a further check can be made via the Home Office Landlords Checking Service. 

The new regulations will apply to tenancies entered into on or after 1 February 2016.  Landlords are not required to carry out any checks in relation to tenancy agreements entered into before that date, or renewed after that date (provided that the renewed agreement will be between the same parties and there has been no break in the tenant’s right to occupy the premises).

The new rules were introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014 which brought in a raft of new measures to reform the immigration system. The aim is to deter those who are illegally resident from remaining in the UK.  Further guidance for landlords is available at www.gov.uk website:https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/landlords-immigration-right-to-rent-checks