Right To Rent checks? Landlords can you afford not to read this…

Whether you are a seasoned Landlord or just starting out the list of do’s and don’t’s, or the should I or shouldn’t I list just gets longer and more complicated, take the Right to Rent for example. What is it? What does it mean for me? Do I have to do anything or do I leave it up to my agent if I have one? Let me try and clear it up as best I can. An “accidental” landlord popped in and asked about how he rents out his late mothers house. It had been on the sale market since May last year and has had no joy so decided to hold on to it and let out. After reading lots of forums and so called do it yourself gurus advice it left him with nothing but questions and doubt.

The “Right to rent” which forms part of the Immigration Act was issued in 2015 and came into force from 1st February 2016. This affects all properties that are privately rented. The only exemptions on when the Right to Rent checks don’t apply are, Social Housing, Accommodation where the local authority have involvement in placing their own tenants, care homes, hospitals and hospices, properties which are used as refuges or hostels (where funded by local authorities or government agencies), and mobile homes, this list is not exhaustive and further information can be found on www.gov.uk. If you don’t fall into any of those categories then you are responsible as a landlord to carry out the Right to Rent checks. Now let me get the worst bit out of the way to start, should you not follow the legislation and allow someone who hasn’t got the right to rent at any point during the tenancy stay in your property you will be subject to a civil penalty which be determined upon breach.

Now, how do you protect yourself? Well let me explain.

For EVERY adult that will be living in your property you need to ensure this will be their only or main home. Ensure you have seen and taken copies of certain documents that prove they have the right to live in the UK, a full list of documents that would prove this is located at https://goo.gl/AAV87o which also has a handy tool and tick checklist to record dates etc.

All documents need to be checked in the presence of the prospective tenant and validated, a competent person can do this visually and you can always call the home office for assistance. You will also be required to take a copy of each document and store it under the Data Protection Act for the duration of the tenancy and for at least 12 months after the tenancy expires. If you have any concerns over the validity or legitimacy of the documents you can always call the Home Office on 0300 069 9799

Here is a quick checklist to assist

When you’re with the tenant, you need to check that:

  • the documents are originals and belong to the tenant
  • the dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired
  • the photos on the documents are of the tenant
  • the dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
  • the documents aren’t too damaged or don’t look like they’ve been changed
  • if any names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, eg marriage certificate or divorce decree

If the tenant is arranging their tenancy from overseas, you must see their original documents before they start living at the property. Remember, any doubts then give the Home Office a call.

Whilst it can be a logical solution to avoid all the unnecessary checks outlined above and just rent to tenants who you think are born residents of the UK then think again, the Right To Rent checks are applicable to absolutely anyone who wishes to rent your property. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts here, especially when the Penalty can be £3,000 of your hard earned money.

Once you have done all the necessary checks to establish the potential tenants Right to Rent in the UK your liability on the Right to Rent doesn’t end there. 12 months after the previous check, OR on the expiry of the tenants right to stay in the UK, whichever is longest in terms of date, you will need to check again and record any findings on the continued right to rent. Should you discover that they no longer have the right to remain in the UK and or the documents don’t quite add up you must tell the Home Office as soon as you know this information, you may be fined if you don’t.

First and foremost, protect yourself, protect your investment, don’t leave anything to chance and make those checks. If the above sounds like a daunting prospect then maybe its time to enlist a local Letting Agent who can take the worry of the penalties out of your hands. Get in touch today 02476 222441. Thanks for reading the Coventry Property Focus Blog.

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