Beginning today, all landlords are to check immigration status of tenants

Checking that a tenant has a right to be in the country is a new legal requirement that the government has introduced for private landlords. This is effective from today,(ie) 1st February 2016.

Introduced in May 2014, this ‘Right to Rent’ law makes landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of prospective tenants. Anyone wanting to rent an apartment or house will need to show evidence of a UK or EU citizenship or a valid UK visa. While this duty used to sit with the Home Office, it has now become a requirement for all landlords to screen prospective tenants as part of the crack down on illegal immigration and issues with people over staying their visas.

Landlords must check that the tenant, and any other adults who’ll be living there, are in the country lawfully. This will be done by landlords requesting documents from their prospective tenants to show that they have the legal right to live in the UK. The legislation will only apply to new tenants, so there is no need to check your existing tenants although checks will be required when renewing a tenancy.

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Landlords will be prevented from letting UK residential premises to individuals if they are ‘disqualified’ due to their immigration status. This will include leases, tenancies and lodgers where rent is paid to the landlord. A person is ‘disqualified’ if they (a) are not a British Citizen, EEA national or Swiss national and (b) require leave to enter or remain in the UK and do not have it. Landlords are not expected to have expert immigration knowledge but ignorance of the new rules will not be a defense.

Anyone who rents accommodation to someone who isn’t in the country lawfully without carrying out the checks can receive a penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant.

Agents must carry out the checks if they’re acting on a landlord’s behalf and have agreed to do them. The checks also apply when people rent out all or part of their home, for example, when taking in a lodger or when sub-letting.

The Landlords: immigration right to rent checks page on gov.uk explains in great detail how to determine who can occupy residential accommodation and how to conduct initial and follow up right to rent checks.

In addition to carrying out a right to rent check, it is advisable to carry out other checks, such as a full tenant check, on your prospective tenants to minimise the risk involved with letting your property.

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