From 1st February 2016 all landlords who let a property in England will be required to carry out a check on the status of their prospective tenants, and other authorised occupiers, to ascertain whether they have the right to rent property in the UK.
As the checks can be carried out 28 days before the start of the tenancy, those checks can be carried out now.
Landlords don’t have to check the rights to rent of existing occupiers who moved in before the 1st February 2016 or where the agreement is renewed between the same parties for the same property.
A letting agent can be appointed by the landlord to carry out the right to rent checks. If an agent is responsible, they will be the one that is potentially liable to a penalty. If a landlord or agent fails to undertake the required checks and lets a property to someone who has no right to stay in the UK, they could face a financial penalty of £1,000 for the first offence and £3,000 thereafter. This penalty is per tenant and so could, therefore, be substantial if there are several occupiers in a property.
I recently saw someone that was offering a five hour training course to landlords on this matter. Both landlords and agents need to be fully aware of all of the issues and training will need to be undertaken. Landlords and agents need to know their responsibilities regarding who they should be checking, what I.D. they should be viewing, how the I.D. will be securely kept and what enquiries they should be making to the tenants. They will also need to consider issues relating to discrimination.
As it stands, if the requirements are breached then the penalty is a civil one. However, the Immigration Bill 2015-16 is currently going through Parliament and will provide a new criminal offence targeted at landlords and agents who repeatedly fail to conduct the right to rent checks. The criminal sanction will be a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Landlords and agents also need to be aware that amendments will be made to the prescribed requirements for identity checks and, therefore, need to be aware of potential alterations in the list of documentation that they should obtain when carrying out the checks.
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