The government announced that the Right to Rent is to be rolled out from 1 February 2016 across all of England. While this is not before the end of the year as I had feared and warned of, it will not be phased and will apply across a wide area. In fact, 1 February is not all that far away given the fairly big changes that agents and landlords will need to make to their procedures.
This will mean that from 1 February onwards all landlord will be obligated to check that every one of their tenants has a Right to Rent, regardless of their beliefs about that person’s origins. That means that “British” people will also need to be checked. The checks will need to be made on all adults who are residing in a property as their home, regardless of whether they are named on the tenancy agreement, and will also require checks to be made against lodgers who live with homeowners if they are living there permanently. These checks will have to be made using original documents and in the presence of the holder of that document or with them available by video link. Landlords will also need to retain copies of the original documents.
This responsibility can be passed on to a letting agent working for the landlord and this will require some liaison between them. Agents who are not carrying out this responsibility will need to make sure they have a process.
This will be a big change in the tenancy commencement process for many agents and will require changes to almost all their documents. It will also need a number of procedures to be rethought and training given to all staff. For example, agents will need to ensure that key staff can identify forgeries, that they have updated their policies on unlawful discrimination, that they have decided whether or not to carry out checks for their landlords, have set up a mechanism to store copies of documents, and have a process in place to re-check documents.
The good news is that most agents will be able to phase this in to some degree as it appears that the new checks will only apply to tenancies which commence or are actively renewed on or after 1 February and will not require checks on persons already in property.