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Following a six month trial in the Midlands, Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 made it a requirement from 1st February 2016 for Landlords to confirm their proposed tenants have the right to be in the UK before entering into a tenancy agreement with them.

The Right-to-Rent checks must be made on anyone renting accommodation and that includes taking in a lodger. If checks are not made and the tenant has no right to rent the Landlord will face a civil penalty resulting in a hefty fine of up to £3,000 per occupier.

If you are a prospective tenant, don’t be surprised or offended to be asked for proof of your right to be in the UK – to avoid any accusation of discrimination everyone should be asked to show their passport or other ID. If you are not asked for these documents you should question if these are the type of letting agents or Landlord you should be dealing with!

You will not need to check any further if the tenant has no restrictions on their right to stay and holds a UK, Swiss or a passport for a country in the European Economic area. Everyone else must have their right to rent confirmed. There are a number of documents that can be used to verify your proposed tenants identity and status and I recommend you go to the Governments website and search for ‘right-to-rent’ to get the comprehensive list. The documents include:  Passport; birth certificate; a valid biometric immigration document. The original documents must be checked in the presence of the person to ensure they match and that there are no obvious causes for suspicion.

The Landlord is expected to check the documents are genuine to the best of their ability by looking out for any indication of tampering, making sure the person you are with is the same as the photos and the date of birth is plausible. They should also confirm that photos and dates on different documents are the same. A Landlord will face a penalty if the documents are obviously fake and they allowed the tenancy to begin. If the Landlord has any suspicions or concerns about the documents the letting should not go ahead and must be reported to the Home Office. If the tenant claims to have an outstanding application and the Home Office have their documents, the Landlord can make a check on the Home Office website and they will receive a clear YES or NO response within two working days.

The tenancy can begin provided it is legal for the tenant to be in the UK on the day the tenancy begins. Follow up checks must be carried out just before the expiry of the date of the tenants’ right to be in the UK or 12 months after the original check, whichever is the later. If you find the person no longer has the right to be in the UK you must make a report to the Home Office. Existing tenancies entered into before 1st February 2016 don’t need to be checked. If the tenancy renews no checks have to be made provided there is no break in the tenancy and none of the occupiers have changed. If they have then full checks on EVERY occupant must be made.

Copies of all the documents seen must be taken and the date they were inspected noted. The copies must be kept securely throughout the tenancy and for a year after it ends. At that point they must be properly destroyed.

In addition there has also been new/a change to the regulation relating to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in let properties that carry heavy fines.

You can find Government guidance here Right to Rent Landlords Code of Practice

If you would like any help or advice on the regulations affecting the lettings market feel free to contact any branch of Martyn Gerrard.