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Understanding “Right to Rent” for landlords and tenants

Written by: Craig Newton on Wednesday 21/09/2016

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In February 2016, the government introduced new legislation designed to establish a tenant’s right to rent, based on their immigration status. These rules were part of the Immigration Act 2014 which was set up to establish a ‘fairer and more effective immigration system’. We look at how the rules affect both landlords and tenants.

For landlords

The new law places the onus on private landlords and letting agencies to check their potential tenants’ rights to rent in the UK. Those who fail to comply face a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant. Under the new rules only certain groups of people have a right to rent. These include:

  • British citizens
  • EU or EEA citizens
  • People with indefinite leave to remain
  • Some people on time-limited visas, such as students, people working in the UK from overseas, or spouses of British citizens
  • People who have leave to remain based on humanitarian, discretionary or exceptional grounds.

It is now the responsibility of the landlord or the letting agency to make checks on identification documents. Only certain documents are acceptable and it’s important that, as a landlord, you make a note of which are. These include: a UK passport, a EEA or Swiss passport (or identity card), a registration document originating in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, residence or biometric cards indicating indefinite leave to remain, and a certificate of registration. A comprehensive list of acceptable documents is available on the government’s website [gov.uk] together with an online checking tool which guides landlords through the process.

You are legally allowed to charge prospective tenants for checking their documents.

If your tenants no longer have a right to rent, e.g. their leave to stay has expired, you must report this to the Home Office as soon as you can, giving their details and copies of the documents which you originally took. This process does not mean that you have to evict them.

For tenants

If you are a UK citizen or are classified in the groups of people listed above, the renting process should be straightforward. You’ll have to produce your documents and allow your landlord or the letting agency to make copies of them (which they must keep in a safe place).

If your tenancy began before 1 February 2016 (apart from the following areas of the country: Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton), or if you are renewing your tenancy at the same property, you will not need to produce documentation.

If you do not have the right to rent, your landlord cannot evict you. The eviction process must take its legal course after proper notice has been given.

It is also illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you because they ‘believe’ you are not a British citizen. You can take legal action against them if you think they have discriminated against you because of your nationality, race or religious beliefs. In fact, all new tenants must provide documentation, whether UK citizens or not.

The new proposals are designed to offer fairness to all tenants and to protect them against unscrupulous landlords.

For more details of how the right to rent affects you, either as a landlord or as a tenant, contact our team. We can offer you specialist and confidential advice to ensure you understand both the law and your rights, and to enable you to make informed decisions.

Written by: Craig Newton on Wednesday 21/09/2016

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