‘Right to rent’ is a tricky subject that rears its legal head in the lives of landlords across the United Kingdom. Following its origins in the immigration act of 2014 ‘Right to rent’ legislation has over the years dished out severe punishments to landlords who don’t play by its rule.
The good news is that you can always stay on the safe side by following the best legal advice. The bad news is that your failure to comply with the legislation can lead to penalisation and in the worst-case scenario a jail term. So, you know why it’s absolutely vital for you as a landlord to get your head around the legislation. Carry on reading to find out…
What is ‘right to rent’?
While there are similarities between ‘right to rent’ and ‘right to reside’, both rules could not be more different from each other. ‘Right to rent’ was introduced by the government with the primary intention of strengthening the immigration system. The new legislation also enabled Government authorities to prevent illegal immigrants from residing in the country.
Essentially, the legislation comes in 3 forms:
1) Permanent right to rent – As is evident from the title, this one attest to the permanent right of tenants. It exclusively applies to citizens and people belonging to the European Economic Area. Of course. Britain’s exit from the European Union will shake up the prevailing equations and the Government may strip EU people of their ‘right to rent’ once and for all. But that’s a topic beyond the scope of this piece.
2) Time-limited right to rent – This one usually requires a lot more documentation and careful handling on your part. This time-specific ‘right to rent’ is granted to those who have been permitted to reside in the UK for a pre-set period of time. It could be someone visiting on a VISA or seeking political asylum.
3) Permission to rent - This is a special stay permission Government grants to people facing deportation. Of course, these people are expected to fund their own accommodation as they undergo the procedure.
It’s important to note that the rule doesn’t apply in every case.
For instance, the legislation doesn’t cover people under the age of XX years old. Properties used as a second home are exempted. Also, educational institutions which nominate students are responsible for performing the rent checks on their own.
When is the right time to run a rent check?
A landlord is legally obliged to run a rent check before renting out their property. In fact, You should run the rent check 28 days before you put pen to paper. Under certain circumstances, landlords are allowed to delay the rent check until after the tenancy has started. For instance, if you signed a tenancy agreement with someone from outside the UK, you will have to wait until they enter the country. However, you must take care of the rent check before you hand over the keys.
If your prospective tenant has a permanent right, you don’t have to worry about doing another rent check. However, if your tenant has only submitted time-limited right, you should follow it up with another check before the permitted period expires.
While landlords can’t dispense with the rent check, it’s possible to hire an agent to see it through on your behalf. If you are buying a property which is already occupied by tenants, you can fall back on the rent checks performed by the former landlord. Of course, you may still want to do a quick check to verify the legitimacy of the rent check.
What kind of penalty are we looking at?
Before you consider sidestepping a rent check, let’s take a look at the penalties. If found guilty of failure to observe the rent check, a landlord can be fined up to £1,000 for accommodating each person who doesn’t have a proper right to rent. Upon being served with a notice to pay the fine, you’re supposed to respond within 28 days.
Things can get even more serious if the Government finds you guilty of knowingly taking in tenants with no right to rent. You can even be served five years of prison term.
Nobody is expecting you to spot all fraudulent documents, but they are expecting you to check. As long as you do this you’ll be covered in case your tenant is dodging the law. We haven’t yet seen any landlords sent to prison, but the government is very serious about this so it really is a matter of time.
Basic quick steps for running rent check
You can carry out right to rent check by simply following these tips.
Start by asking your potential tenant to submit their original document that attests to their right to reside in the United Kingdom. Once you’ve received the documents, cross-check to establish their legitimacy. If the prospective tenant fails your test, immediately inform the home office.
When you have verified all the documents and ensure their authenticity, take copies and keep them somewhere safe. Also, make sure to record the date of the check.
Usually, it’s perfectly alright for landlords to run ‘right to rent’ check without the official intervention of the home office.
‘Right to rent’ is a topic that you simply can’t afford to take lightly. The introduction of the legislation has brought to light many incidents of document forgery and urged landlords to exercise more caution.
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