Landlord Law: Right-To-Rent Immigration Checks

Tenants right to rent

Another day, another incoming landlord legal requirement to ruin our lives and add to the forever growing list. Sigh.

This one is about the hot topic of immigration- it was bound to happen. The Government needs to look like it’s doing something about the issue to restore faith in those wallowing around in upheave- so why not put some responsibility on landlords- because that makes sense? Right.

Needless to say, the kind of people they’re trying to reassure is another issue altogether. Probably not people I’d dance with. But that’s another story for another day.

Fortunately, on this very, very, very rare occasion (I can’t emphasise that enough), this doesn’t appear to be a legislation that targets landlords’ pockets directly, and in-turn benefit our politicians’ balance sheets. Even more surprisingly, this one doesn’t actually seem like a totally terrible idea (comparative to previously introduced legislations, of course). It almost makes you think it’s a misprint. However, there’s still a lot to be desired about it, which makes it utterly believable.

Ok, so here’s a quick overview of the legislation and what is required in order to comply…

Page contents:

What is the “right-to-rent” legislation?

Income the Immigration Act 2014 and the “right to rent” regulation.

Here’s a quick video explaining from the Home Office:

From the 1st December 2014, UK landlords could face civil penalties if they rent homes to illegal immigrants without carrying out the appropriate checks, ‘right to rent’ checks.

Merry Christmas!

I quote, from the Gov website:

Under section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 a landlord should not authorise an adult to occupy property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, or EEA or Swiss national, or has a “right to rent” in the UK. Someone will have the “right to rent” in the UK provided they are present lawfully in accordance with immigration laws. Landlords who breach section 22 may be liable for a civil penalty.

In normal human talk, you’ll just need to check your tenant’s ID and proof of citizenship and ensure they have a right to rent in this country. Why didn’t they just say so, right?

The issue has caused controversy within the industry over whether it is our responsibility to check the immigration status of potential tenants. I personally don’t think it’s a tall order to simply ask for proof of ID/Citizenship (that’s basically what the legislation asks of landlords)- but it definitely shouldn’t be a landlord’s responsibility to keep taps on immigration and then being penalized for failing to do so.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s a hugely terrible legislation simply because it will help landlords perform better referencing (for those foolish landlords that don’t already ask for ID), even though the motive for being forced to do it is completely unrelated. So let’s just throw this one onto the shit-pile of landlord legal requirements that doesn’t make total sense, but is marginally acceptable because it helps landlords in other ways and breaks the mold of NOT making landlords pay through the nose to comply with a completely ridiculous legislation. Ahem. Landlord licensing scheme.

Who does it apply to?

Initially, the legislation will apply to landlords letting property in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton (why these areas? No idea), and then roll out to the rest of the country from February 1, 2016. This means all private landlords, or their agents, in England, including those subletting or taking in lodgers, will have to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property. It does not apply to Wales or Scotland at this point.

You can use this right-to-rent tool on the GOV website to check whether or not your property is affected by the legislation. Alternatively, you can call a helpline on 0300 069 9799.

What are the penalties for not complying?

The Immigration Act 2014 stated that if found to be in breach, landlords could have faced fines up to £3,000. Ouch! But the penalty isn’t just limited to landlords; agents may also take on liability. Letting agents will be liable for the penalty in the event of a contravention if, acting in the course of business, they have accepted responsibility in writing for compliance with these provisions. My advice is, if you’re using a letting agent, make sure you get written confirmation that they are responsible for ensuring your tenant has a legal immigration status to rent in England!

It is also possible to commit this offence where a tenant’s “right to rent” has expired during the tenancy. So for example, landlords and agents should keep track of dates if their tenants have temporary permits.

In light of the heightened seriousness of the situation, the penalty has now been knocked up to a possible five years imprisonment. Holy smokes! I’m assuming the penalty is very reliant on the individual circumstances, and the imprisonment sentences is most likely reserved for repeat offenders. However, being thrown behind bars for 5 years seems a tad excessive, unless the landlord is caught cramming illegal immigrants into his carboot and crossing them through the border.

How do landlords comply with right-to-rent checks?

Landlords will need to check the identity and citizenship of ALL tenant’s over 18, for example a passport. These provisions also extend to adult occupiers that are NOT named in the tenancy agreement, so it’s important to check ALL tenants.

A full detailed list of what is accepted as proof is provided below.

Copies of the items used as evidence will need to be taken to prove that the checks have been carried out, dated by the landlord and must be kept for at least one year thereafter.

Personally, I’ve always checked my tenant’s ID and taken a copy as a safety measure, just to ensure there’s no fraudulent activity. I assume most with a little sense do the same. So this legislation won’t really make me do anything I wasn’t already doing.

What documentation will be accepted as proof of right-to-rent?

The documents that are considered acceptable for demonstrating right-to-rent in the UK are set out in two lists – List A and List B.

LIST A contains documents that prove the tenant has an indefinite right to be in the UK, while LIST B proves the the tenant only has a limited period.

List A

You are required to see either one document from group 1 OR any two documents from group 2.

Right to rent- List A, Group 1

Right to rent- List A, Group 2

List B

All documents in List B must be valid (not expired) at the time of the right to rent check.

If presented with a document from this list, the landlord will need to carry out follow up checks within the following periods, to ensure the tenant is still permitted to rent in this country:

  • a) one year, beginning with the date on which the checks were last made, or
  • b) before the period of the person’s leave to be in the UK, or
  • c) the period for which the person’s evidence of their right to be in the UK expires.

Right to rent- List B

For guidance on how to check documents and examples of acceptable documents, there’s a guide available from the Government, which you can download from here.

Check if someone can rent your residential property!

To help landlords determine if a tenant has the right to rent in England, the Gov website has recently introduced an online tool…

Right to rent tool for landlords

What happens if a tenant can’t provide any documents from List B?

The landlord must request verification of a right to rent from the Home Office’s Landlords Checking Service by completing the relevant online form.

… or you could just find a tenant that can provide the relevant documents.

I personally don’t think it’s worth jumping through hoops for someone that can’t provide basic documentation to prove their identity and/or right to rent in this country. It would be extremely concerning if a tenant couldn’t effortlessly produce those vital documents, right? But I’ll leave that in your capable hands to decide. Perhaps the tenant is unbelievably hot, so you’re prepared to walk the extra mile. Good for you; I’m certainly no stranger to thinking with my penis.

Needless to say, I don’t even know what half those documents look like in a legitimate form. Are we also meant to check the authenticity of the documents we receive? Will unknowingly accepting fraudulent documents land us in shit? God knows. All I know is that I have no bloody idea what a genuine “A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office” looks like, nor do I wish to waste my precious time playing detective.

Now we’re starting to see the gaping holes in this scheme. I suspect this new policy may force some landlords to choose tenants that have indefinite right to be in the UK and can rely on UK driving licenses and passports as proof of citizenship, just to avoid any uncertainties and complications, so the GOV might be shooting themselves in the foot with this brainchild. Dumbasses.

People are already able to convincingly fake documents to illegally enter the country- how do you think landlords will fare against that battle? Good thing most landlords are fully qualified forensic experts, otherwise this would be a totally bullshit idea.

For further details

I have only covered what I feel to be the most essential/applicable information to the average landlord/tenant scenario. There’s a tonne more snooze-worthy and up-to-date details available from the GOV website that may apply to rarer and/or more convoluted situations. It’s worth rummaging through if you give a flying crap. Enjoy!

Bottom line, don’t give tenancy to any illegal immigrants, otherwise you could be royally screwed!

So, what are your thoughts on the legislation? Like, dislike, indifferent? Speak to me!

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28 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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andrewa 5th November, 2014 @ 21:57

This is actually a very good thing for landlords, if a tenant has to prove who he or she really is then that can be recorded on a tenant database and if they are bad tenants this information can be recorded there warning other landlords to "beware this person, you do NOT want to rent anything to him". We have this in South Africa in the shape of an organization called "tenant profile network or TPN". Google it to see how it works and while I do not work for them I have used their services for the past few years.

Want to be a bad tenant? Hope you are or know a good forger!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 5th November, 2014 @ 22:18

Hi andrewa,

I hope most landlords ask for I.D. anyways, to prevent fraud and other issues. I always have.

My only gripe with the legislation is that landlords can face a fine for not carrying out the checks. I don't think landlords should take responsibility for immigration issues.

But generally, I don't think it's a totally bad idea, but only because it forces landlords to do something they should already be doing.

The practise of checking I.D is good, but the reason for doing so in this instance isn't justifiable in my opinion.

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Windy 6th November, 2014 @ 08:07

Sad to see a comment like ethnic rapists on a blog off this nature,

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th November, 2014 @ 08:27

Hi Windy,

Ahh apologies, I was actually implying how ridiculous that stereotype is (in light of bigots taking advantage of what the media has been reporting in Rotherham). My sarcasm may not have come across as clear. I've removed the line to avoid any further confusion!

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Harassed Pete 6th November, 2014 @ 09:24

I have always checked ID but they still don't pay their rent or their utilitie bills, one went off owing £2700! They seem to get away with it and he has now been housed by the council, everything laid on! Paying bills is sooooo yesterday, simply 'not done old boy'. We l/lords need more clout, form a union or something. PS anyone know any heavies?

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Harassed Pete 6th November, 2014 @ 09:30

PPS What ever happened to free speech? Shush!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th November, 2014 @ 09:48

Hi HP,

That's my point Pete! This has nothing to do with improving security for landlords/tenants.

Yeah, I had a housing benefit tenant that intentionally fell into arrears so she could get a council house. The system is ridiculous!

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Windy 6th November, 2014 @ 10:29

There is nothing wrong with free speech,but it needs to be factual and accurate,one could argue that all landlords are corrupt tight fisted and taking advantage of people,but this is neither factual or accurate,now back to the matter in hand I personally do not see the problem with asking for a tenants ID eg passport as this is something I have always done and noted on paperwork,to me it's just another part of the vetting system.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th November, 2014 @ 11:02

Hi Windy,

As explained, it was a facetious comment, it wasn't about stating a fact, it was about implying that the stereotype is ridiculous!

People do say all landlords are tight-fisted and corrupt, I don't respond by saying "you can't say that, needs to be a fact"

Anyways, I agree, asking for a tenant's ID is what ALL landlords should be doing anyways (which is what I already said), but this is about landlord's being responsible for immigration issues, and then potentially being fined for not complying. That's the part I don't think is entirely right.

Either way, I don't think it's a hugely terrible legislation simply because it will help landlords perform better referencing (for those that don't already ask for ID), even though the motive for being forced to do it is completely different.

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Harassed Pete 6th November, 2014 @ 11:43

My, how things haye changed! Let's get real, rogue l/lords are thing of the past now it's the tenants! There's a new bill going before parliament on the 28th about so called 'revenge evictions for repairs' which could weaken section 21. We need to take our angers out there! Surley, a l/lord would not evict a tenant in order to save doing repairs when they would have to be done anyway before a new tenant would take on the tenancy! Forgot to mention in earlier blog that the £2700 owed was for utilities alone!

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Harassed Pete 6th November, 2014 @ 12:02

Enough is enough! We need to ALL band together and make our views known as there has been so many successive incompetent meddling governments. Is it any wonder this country's a mess.

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Harassed Pete 7th November, 2014 @ 17:24

Feel so much better today, possession order came through but still gotta get 'em out tho.

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Rock-Well247 7th November, 2014 @ 21:08

What the !'.?.? Is this crap now surely it's well known that if you put a new system in place people will naturally find a way around it - hello Photoshop and a scanner and the poor l/Lord is non the wiser thinking I they have complied with the ledge.. Give me a break!!!!

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Jack Ass 7th November, 2014 @ 22:47

Seems to me, we're gonna have to do a "lotta checks"!!!

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Jack Ass 7th November, 2014 @ 23:19

Just had a brainwave! 1Rent out your home
2 Declare yourself homeless
3 Get a "rent free" house on the council
4 Bob's your uncle
5 Fanie's your ant'
6 Nice little earner without spending one penny!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th November, 2014 @ 10:19

@HP
Congrats :)

How long did it take and what process did you go through?

@Rock-Well247
Good point! I wonder if landlords could face penalties if they unknowingly accept fake documents? Are we meant to take responsibility for that?

@Jack Ass
Many People actually do that, and those people are definitely a bunch of fannies ha!

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Jack Ass 8th November, 2014 @ 10:43

Yes, my previous comment is a Cynical dig but is it any wonder as we are hit from all sides. One example, our council charge FULL council tax on a vacant property plus 50 percent extra if empty more than 2 years whereas HB tenants pay nothing, ever! Next life I'm coming back as a woman - 8 kids - no stress - no worries - live the good life - sorted !!! Well, must go as I have fill out my tax return.

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Jack Ass 8th November, 2014 @ 10:52

Bahhh, another tenant not paying. Where's me gun, 10p a bullet can't be bad value and must save the last one for me self!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th November, 2014 @ 11:02

Ha so true! Being a single unemployed woman with multiple kids, from multiple fathers is the way forward!

Local authorities are just trying to squeeze pennies out of landlords wherever they can just to make up for their cock-ups!

Both the restructuring of the council tax exemption along with compulsory landlord licensing scheme are just cashcows moderated by local authorities- they choose how expensive they want to make it for landlords. So if they're short on cash, they'll just squeeze tighter by enforcing the fees.

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Jack Ass 8th November, 2014 @ 11:09

Me again. Have a confession to make. I'm no longer known as Harassed Pete, changed my name by 'deed poll' yesterday cos great way to dodge the 'bills'. Learnt that from HB night school last week! For Free!

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David 10th November, 2014 @ 18:43

@andrewa that would get you into VERY hot water, it is illegal here, there are a lot of things illegal here like killing your girlfriend and pretending she is a burglar.

@Landlord always makes rash comments but he only does it for theatre.

I think this legislation is a waste of time, all that will happen is that you will get people with ID sub-lettingas a lot of Eastern Europeans do, but also how does it help the situation. It will not make the illegal leave the UK as they do not have the money and are not aware that they will get a free ticket home if they present themselves to immigration.

I would rather see mandatory minimum fines of £20k per illegally employed person, time and time again employers are let off. Illegals like EU immigrants are mostly exploited, so if you make it financially unviable to risk employing the illegal you reduce the idea that this is a place to go.

I do not see that Landlords play any part in encouraging illegal immigration but of course it makes sense to check ID just so you know your tenant.

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andrewa 27th November, 2014 @ 15:20

@Dave,
Thanks for the comment but what would be illegal in the UK. Starting a database of bad tenants now they have to provide proof of ID? That would stop people with ID sub letting as you complain about as they could only do it once unless they forged new papers and as far as I know that is a crime in the UK as well as South Africa.

P.S. He is now in jail.....couldn't be proved he knew it was his girlfriend in there but he admitted not knowing who was there when he fired so culpable homicide due to negligence with a fire arm.

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Jonathan 19th December, 2014 @ 16:06

Ughh. Have you seen that list! I would not have a clue as to what most of those documents look like. They are going to be in a range of languages, with different age documents looking different and all bound up in severe penalties from making a mistake.

Unless UK Gov feels like paying me to take a document identification training course, and then paying me again for carrying out immigration checks for them, of course. At the moment as a landlord it feels like you pay tax and don't get much back...

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Jasper Alistair 4th March, 2015 @ 14:21

All the government is asking is that migrants present their passport and that landlords check the prospective tenants reason for being in the country. They could be students, be on a work visa, or have indefinite leave to remain.

Student visas and work visas have expiry dates and thus the land lord needs to be aware of this fact. It is all stated on one line of the visa stamp page of their passport! The landlord simply has to make a note to follow up on a specified date to see if the tenants still reside on his premises and if so find out if the migrants visa has been extended or if an application to extend is in process by contacting the home office to ensure this is being done.

Thanks,
Jasper Alistair

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John 14th January, 2016 @ 13:43

To fit in with eligibility legislation and the council's licenced properties rules...It could be suggested that landlords should permit only tenants that can show checkable (emphasis on checkable)

A) evidence of continuous employment for the last 2 years.

B) references from at least 2 previous landlords and that the tenancy periods being referred to are for at least 12 or even 24 months. (your choice)

C) character references

D) bank references to attest to income, ability and willingness to pay rent

Any criteria you wish to apply to making your decision on which applicants to either accept or reject are mainly but by no means wholly your own preference.

By following the rules on seeing proof of eligibility to be a resident and by sticking strictly to the above criteria you would I believe be far less likely to have people that are not long term UK citzens (or at least residents) applying to rent your property.

You would also in-line with what appears to be the council's thinking on social behaviour and you are not adding to the number of people in receipt of various benefits (which importantly includes housing and poll tax benefits which cost the council money) in the area.

The odd thing is that when you look at some of the criteria for being an 'ethical' or 'nice' landlord you should be willing to accept aplications from DHSS and peoples of all races religions and nationalities. Now where you could have at one time been accused of prejudice on the grounds of income and racism for refusing some applicants now anyone, nice or not, can justify not accepting many any applicants you wish for fear of breaking the rules on eligibility.

Interestingly; It appears the government seems to continue to not only fail to stem but to actually encourage the constant stream of immigrants for all reasons and from any source whilst appearing to fuel the discontent.

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Cee 16th January, 2016 @ 01:22

I've just advertised one of my properties to rent and within 12 hours had a rash of inquiries from people desperate to move in before the end of the month. It crossed my mind that maybe a number of these people realise that they may have great difficulty finding rental accommodation after this date...

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Tony 17th January, 2016 @ 08:07

Hi,

I totally agree with the Right to Immigration Check Act, but I am facing problems because of this.

I am a Portuguese national and moved to the UK 4 months ago. I have a full time job in UK and now I intend to get my non-EU spouse and 2 kids on the EEA Family Permit. I currently live in a Single Room in UK and have a tenancy agreement on my name from the owner.

On the VAF5 form for the EEA Family Permit, I am confused on the following:
Q 8.9.1-Where do you and the EEA National plan to live in the UK?, which has a section of type of accommodation, no. of rooms, etc. As per law, I would need a two bedroom apartment/house based on my family members.

Based on this, I decided to hunt for a 2 bedroom house to meet this requirement to accommodate my family. I disclosed to the estate agents that I need a house for my wife and 2 kids who would be moving in with me soon. Liked 10 properties with 2 bedrooms. But all estate agents are refusing to sign a tenancy agreement quoting Right to Rent Act and my wife not having a visa to enter the UK. Later on, one agent agreed with a rent of £865. After that I paid £200(admin fees) and £400 (holding deposit) for the property. The next day the agent came back to me saying that the owner is not allowing this to proceed as my wife does not have legal status to enter the UK. So now the agent has agreed to transfer the £600 back.

The thought did cross my mind to not disclose any details about my wife and 2 kids to the landlord/agency. Then one day, just tell the landlord that my family has moved in. But then I am breaching the terms of the Tenancy Agreement, risk losing my deposit as well as face eviction and even the landlord taking me to court to recover his loss (agency fees, drafting fees, etc) incurred due to non-disclosure of family details.

Can someone guide me on this?

-Tony

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Jackie 20th July, 2017 @ 23:01

Recently discovered mother has tenant that is not EU. Came to UK as regugee. Agent signed them up March 2014. I read this as now being applicable or irrelevant as prior to new legislation.
Feedback anyone please.
Thanks

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