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UK Landlords now need to check whether a tenant has the right to be here
From this week landlords in some areas of the West Midlands could face a fine of up to £3,000 if they rent a property to someone without the legal “right to rent” in the UK.
The right-to-rent scheme has been introduced under the Immigration Act 2014. The Government says the scheme’s aim is to deter illegal immigration and prevent illegal immigrants from accessing our finite housing stock. It will also help stop people who do not have the right to be in the UK from establishing a settled life here.
The right-to-rent pilot scheme went live on 1st December. It means that landlords in five council areas – Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton – will need to check the immigration status of new tenants before allowing them to move into a property.
Landlords can carry out the checks by seeing and photocopying evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, for example a passport or biometric residence permit (an official form of identification provided by the Home Office). They then need to keep a copy of the documents until 12 months after the tenancy has ended.
Where the tenant is a non-EEA national with a time limit on their stay in the UK, the landlord or agent will need to make another check when the person’s visa or residence permit is due to expire.
If a landlord is unsure about the information they are given by a prospective tenant they can conduct a check on the government website.
The rules only cover new tenancies which begin on or after 1st December 2014 – there’s no need to go back and check existing tenants.
Landlords found letting a property to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent could be fined up to £3,000.
The Home Office has said that it will evaluate the pilot scheme in the spring before a wider roll-out next year.
What do the new rules mean for landlords?
Right to rent means that thousands of landlords, many of whom fall into the 'accidental' landlord category, are effectively being forced to act as the UK’s border control.
Campaigners have warned that landlords are likely only to rent to “white tenants with British-sounding names” to avoid the risk of a fine.
They have a point. I was a landlord for five years and there are already plenty of checks it’s advisable to carry out before granting someone a tenancy.
Do they have a job? Can they afford the rent?
Do they have a history of rent arrears and damaging rental property? What’s their credit history?
What right to rent means for tenants
I don’t think right to rent will benefit tenants in any way. For starters, landlords are likely to favour low-risk tenants whose legal right to reside in the UK is clear cut.
Alternatively landlords and letting agents may decide to check out the immigration status of all tenants, not just those from overseas. This means more work has to be done before a tenancy is granted, and with letting agents notorious for charging massive fees for small admin tasks, there is likely to be an extra cost to the tenant.
For those tenants who can’t easily prove they have the right to live in the UK there will be an increased risk of being forced into sub-standard accommodation owned by dodgy landlords who ignore the rules.
Right to rent will do little more than pass the immigration buck from the government to ordinary citizens.