Criminal sanctions are now regularly being imposed on landlords who failed to complete the Right to Rent checks.
In February 2016 the government placed an obligation on landlords of residential property to ensure that all adult occupiers of the property had the legal right to live in the UK. In the two years since this change the Home Office has fined more than 400 landlords who have either not carried out the correct checks or have allowed occupiers to live in their property when they are not permitted to live in the UK. The average fine was over £650 per landlord. Interestingly though far few numbers of deportations have resulted from Right to Rent breaches than the number of fines that have been issued.
However, the Right to Rent checks are currently being challenged through the Courts. This action has been brought after the Residential Landlords Association found that landlords are now reluctant to rent to anyone who does not hold a British Passport. As a result, there is concern that the rules are causing discrimination against potential tenants who are entitled to live in the UK but who are not British Citizens. This is a possible breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Landlords are understandably keen to avoid criminal sanctions which result from breaching the legislation. This cautious approach is causing many landlords to refuse to rent to individuals who are perfectly entitled to live in the UK. This is on the basis that they feel less capable of checking documents provided by tenants are genuine if they are not a British Passport and do not want to risk substantial fines.
However, being selective as to who they rent property to could result in a claim being brought against the landlord for discrimination. Consequently landlords are at risk even if they chose to adopt a more cautious approach as to who they rent to.
If the challenge in the Courts is successful the Home Office will need to reconsider the scheme. The balance between punishing those who deliberately evade the law, while not deterring landlords from renting to legitimate residents that are non-UK nationals, needs to be improved. In the meantime the key advice to all landlords is to keep clear records of what documents were checked and when the check took place. Landlords should ensure they see originals of the documents being relied on and if in doubt use the Home Office checker: https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/lcs-application.ofml prior to allowing tenants to move in.