Immigration checks: How to Make the Essential Checks

The Home Office’s evaluation of Right to Rent checks has been released and explains exactly what landlords need to do to fulfil their obligations.

The Immigration Act 2014 brought in sweeping changes and introduced new obligations that buy-to-let landlords must comply with. One of these changes is the requirement to complete Right to Rent checks to ensure all tenants have the correct immigration status to rent a property in the UK. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant.

The new rules are to be extended across the UK on 1 February 2016, after initial trials in the West Midlands. They will make it a legal requirement for all private landlords, or their agents, including those sub-letting or taking in lodgers, to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out a property.

What checks must you complete?

The government has issued a code of practice for landlords to follow, including guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination, which has been drawn up with the assistance of the Human Rights Commission.

Within 28 days before the start of a new tenancy, you must make checks for:

  • All adult tenants (aged 18 and over)
  • All types of tenancy agreements, written or oral

Tenants in some types of accommodation will not need to be checked. That includes:

  • Accommodation involving local authorities
  • Social housing
  • Care homes, hospitals and hospices
  • Hostels and refuges

 When making your Right to Rent checks, you need to complete the following steps:

  • Check which adult tenants will live in the property as their only or main home
  • Ask tenants for the original documents that show they have the right to be in the UK
  • Check the documents are valid while the tenant is present
  • Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check

 What documents do they need?

When checking the prospective tenant’s documents, you are looking for one of the following:

  • A UK passport
  • European Economic Area passport or identity card
  • Permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Home Office immigration status document
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

You need to make sure that:

  • The documents are originals and belong to the tenant
  • The dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired
  • The photos on the documents look like the tenant
  • The dates are the same on all documents
  • The documents aren’t too damaged or look like they’ve been changed
  • If any of the names are different on the documents there are supporting documents to show why – marriage certificate, divorce decree etc.

If a tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal you can check that person’s right to rent by using the Landlords’ Checking Service. If the tenant is arranging their tenancy from overseas, you must check their original documents before they start living in your property.

Copying the documents

The landlord must make a copy of the documents provided. Landlords have to keep these copies for the duration of the tenancy, and then for at least one year afterwards. Documents containing personal or sensitive data must be stored securely and original documents must not be kept.

 What about existing tenants?

Existing tenants with agreements that started before 1 December 2014, or renewals of those tenancies after this date, are not affected by the checks as long as there’s no break in the tenancy and any renewed agreement is made between the same people.

How can we help?

You can also ask any agent that manages or has let your property to carry out the checks for you. At Open House Torbay, we can complete the right to rent checks on your behalf, ensuring total compliance and peace of mind.

t: 01803 659 000

e: torquay@localagent.co.uk

w: www.openhousetorbay.co.uk

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