Avoid a £3,000 penalty by checking your tenants’ right to rent

POSTED: 29th January 2016
IN: Landlord helpful guides

After a six month pilot in the West Midlands, the government is now rolling out its Right to Rent scheme across England.

As a landlord, you must now check that any adult living in your property has the right to stay in the UK. If you’re found to have someone who isn’t allowed to rent in England living in your property, you could be fined up to £3,000.

Checks must be done on any tenancy that starts on or after 1 February 2016 and must be completed within 28 days before the tenancy begins. It’s also worth noting that you must make checks for anyone over 18 who lives in the property, regardless of whether they’re named in the tenancy agreement or not.

With a recent study of 5,000 landlords finding that 50 per cent of them don’t feel prepared for the introduction of Right to Rent, there is clearly still a lot of confusion surrounding what you need to do to avoid potential fines.  

How can you check a tenant’s right to rent?

There are a number of steps you must take when checking a tenant’s right to rent.

1)      Check which adults will live at your property as their only or main home

According to the government website, a property would be classified as a tenant’s only or main home if:

  •          They live there most of the time
  •          They keep most of their belongings there
  •          Their partner or children live with them
  •          They’re registered to vote at the property
  •          They’re registered with the doctor using that address

2)      See the original documents that allow the tenant to live in the UK

There are a number of different documents a tenant can show you to prove they have a right to rent in the UK, including a passport, driving licence or birth certificate. The government has published a full list of accepted documents on their website.

3)      Check that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant, with the tenant present

When you’re with your tenant, you need to check the following:

  •          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 are of the tenant
  •          The dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
  •          The documents aren’t too damaged or don’t look like they’ve been changed
  •          If any of the names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, e.g. a marriage certificate or divorce decree

If your tenant isn’t in the country yet and is arranging their tenancy from overseas, you still need to see their original documents before they move in.

4)      Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check

Once you have confirmed that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant, you must make and keep copies of them throughout their tenancy and for one year after. The government has provided some advice to be followed when making the copies, including:

  •          Make a copy that can’t be changed, e.g. a photocopy
  •          For passports, copy every page with the expiry date or applicant’s details (e.g. nationality, date or birth and photograph), including endorsements, e.g. a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK
  •          Copy both sides of biometric residence permits
  •          Make a complete copy of all other documents
  •          Record the date you made the copy

Finally, if you use a letting agency or property management company to let or manage your properties, you can ask them to carry out these checks for you. However, if you do this it’s important to have this agreement in writing.

Are you a buy to let landlord? If so, how do you feel about the Right to Rent scheme? Let us know.

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