From 1st February 2016 the parts of the Immigration Act 2014 dealing with “right to rent” immigration checks came into force in England. Scotland and Wales and other jurisdictions may have similar rules but you need to confirm these before letting.

Under the “right to rent” scheme landlords must carry out various checks to establish a right to rent in England before signing up a tenant. Failure to comply carries a fine of up to £3,000 per resident.

You will need to do these checks if you are one of the following:

  • a landlord letting private rented accommodation, or
  • a landlord or occupier allowing a lodger to live in a property, or
  • a tenant or occupier sub-letting a property, or
  • an agent appointed in writing by a landlord to take responsibility for complying with the scheme.

Landlords can delegate responsibility to an agent but you must have a written agreement to this effect.

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In most cases some simple checks will be required to make sure you comply with your obligations under the regulations in the Immigration Act 2014:

  1. As you need to comply with the discrimination laws under the Equality Act 2010 all applicants should be taken through the same tenant verification and selection process.
  2. You need to establish how many adults will be living in the property as their main residence – each of them will need to be checked
  3. You need to establish if any children under 18 will become 18 during the course of the tenancy, and if so arrange for them to have “right to rent” checks at the relevant birth date.
  4. You will check the immigration status of each person over 18.

The check the right to rent status you will need to:

1 – Obtain acceptable original documents including but not restricted to:

a. A passport (current or expired) showing that the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.

b. A passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland.

c. A registration certificate or document (current or expired) certifying or indicating permanent residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of a European Union, European Economic Area country or Switzerland.

d. A permanent residence card, indefinite leave to remain, indefinite leave to enter or no time limit card issued by the Home Office (current or expired), to a non-EEA national who is a family member of an EEA or Swiss national.

e. A biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid (not expired) at the time the right to rent check is made.

f. A passport or other travel document (current or expired) endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.

g. A current immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is permitted to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid (not expired) at the time the right to rent check is made.

h. A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.

2Check each document in the presence of its owner

3 – Take a good quality copy of each document and date it, at least one of which is a photo ID

4 – Store the documents securely

5 – Take a phone face photo of the applicant/s

During the tenancy:

  1. Where a tenant has a limited stay, diarise this for re-checks during the tenancy
  2. Diarise a re-check for time-limited documents or children turning 18
  3. Re-check tenants and report to the Home Office if necessary

At the end of the tenancy:

  1. Keep all documents for a further 12 months
  2. Detailed information and guidance is available on the Home Office website here
  3. You might find the following documents useful:
    1. Summary Guidance for Landlords Right to rent checks here
    2. Landlords’ guide to checking immigration documents here
    3. Right to rent immigration checks: landlords’ code of practice here
    4. Right to rent checks: what they mean for you here

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Credit checking and reference agencies such as www.tenantverify.co.uk will be building in automatic right to rent document checks on every credit and reference check. However, this CANNOT verify identity – only by having original documents and the person in front of the landlord or agent can this be done.

Having said that, and as a compromise, it looks like it will be possible, for those online letting agents and those landlords or agents who don’t meet tenants face-to-face before a letting (for example tenants coming from abroad) to use online technology such as Skype.

The applicant can be identified on screen and their matching paper ID inspected when it is sent through to the landlord or agent. This can then be validated as a true likeness via the Skype call and prior to entering into an agreement.

The position has not been fully clarified yet, but it appears the law requires physical checks of documentation, and either physical or online checks of prospective tenants carried out at the same time.

This could in theory present a problem for most online letting agents who never see the tenants, with the process being wholly handled online and landlords conducting their own viewings.

The new law suggests that in future online agents may have to arrange how they ‘look’ at tenants and or also employ local agents to collect documents.

Although tenants could be “seen” face to face or via Skype, this will according to the law have to be done simultaneously alongside inspection of the documentation.

According to Section 5(1) the exact legal requirement is:

“Checks on prospective tenants may only be undertaken and recorded up to 28 days before the tenancy agreement comes into effect.”

However, advances in technology may mean that in future face recognition software on ‘phone apps may allow landlords and agents to match and verify faces to passport or driver’s ID photos. Some of this technology is already in development for commercial applications which give bank standard security levels.

Right to Rent Factsheet here

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