Written by: John Padgett on Tuesday 23/02/2016
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is urging landlords to ensure they make full checks of whether prospective tenants are lawful UK residents or risk a fine of £3,000 per tenant.
RICS has delivered this warning to give landlords a further nudge since the new government Right to Rent Legislation became mandatory on February 1st. The new Right to Rent checks mean that private landlords across England are obliged to make appropriate checks on their tenants and that they have a right to be in the UK. The legislation is applicable to new tenancies only at present and is part of the government’s attempt to clamp down on illegal immigration.
The new legislation requires landlords, including those who are subletting or renting out a single room to a lodger, take copies of the identity and citizenship documentation from any potential tenants. If there are situations where a form of official identification cannot be produced, then landlords or letting agents can request the Home Office carry out a ‘Right to Rent’ check and this will deliver a response within two days.
In some cases, it may be found that a tenant is allowed to be in the UK for a short time and then they will be rechecked at a later date to ensure they are within the terms of their stay. If it so happens that a tenant is outstaying their allowed period, then the landlord or letting agency is obliged to evict them and lodge a report with the Home Office or risk the penalty of the £3,000 fine per tenant.
Whilst RICS has issued this warning, they have also been openly opposed to the idea that the government is using landlords and letting agencies as a kind of pseudo border control agency and speaking on behalf of RICS, head of policy Jeremy Blackburn commented: “Some of the new Right-to-Rent law will be of great benefit to landlords, such as the power for them to end a tenancy without a court order, providing the tenant is in the country illegally.
“However, what we don’t want to see happen is landlords and letting agents effectively turn into extensions of the Home Office and Border Force.
“Therefore, it’s important that landlords and letting agents understand that they are not expected to be immigration experts or to have specialist knowledge of immigration documents or VISAs.
"Anyone who is shown a false document will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent it is false.”
To protect themselves against these new penalties, landlords need to make sure they are carrying out full checks and complying with the Home Office - especially if multiple tenants are found to be residing illegally.
If there are situations where a form of official identification cannot be produced, then landlords or letting agents can request the Home Office carry out a ‘Right to Rent’ check and this will deliver a response within two days.