We have already highlighted the importance of landlords performing proper checks on the status of prospective tenants and other occupiers to establish whether they have the right to rent property in the UK.
If a landlord or its agent fails to undertake the required checks and lets a property to a party who has no right to stay in the UK, the landlord, or the agent (depending on who was responsible for carrying out the checks), could face a financial penalty (per tenant) of £1,000 for the first offence and £3,000 for further offences.
The Immigration Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016, provides for a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for landlords and agents who know or have reasonable grounds to believe that the rented premises are occupied by an adult disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status.
It is therefore imperative that landlords (or agents) carry out checks on all their prospective tenants to avoid the risk of a fine or committing a criminal offence.
The required checks are currently as follows:-
- review original documents proving that the tenant is entitled to reside in the UK;
- landlords or agents should ensure that the documents are genuine. Landlords are unlikely to be experts in detecting fraudulent documents but photographs should be a true likeness of the holder, the date of birth should be believable and consistent with any other paperwork and the document should not appear to have been obviously tampered with;
- landlords or agents should take good quality and complete copies of documents and record the date that the check was made. Copies need to kept for the duration of the time they are a tenant and for one year after.
For further information on the above, follow the link to the gov.uk website - Home Office User Guide to Right to Rent Document Checks.
If an agent has been given responsibility to carry out the checks on behalf of the landlord, it should be ensured that the responsibilities of the agent have been clearly recorded in writing.
Landlords and agents should pay attention to any time-limits on the tenant’s permission to reside in the UK, as they will need to carry out further checks and inform the Home Office if they discover that their tenant cannot legally continue to rent property in England.
Landlords and agents also need to be aware that amendments will be made to the prescribed requirements for identity checks and, therefore, need to be aware of potential alterations in the list of documentation that they should obtain when carrying out the checks.