Right to Rent immigration checks are closer than you think

Right to Rent has been widely publicised as the need to check on a tenant’s immigration status with regard to occupying residential property in England.

But Zaza Oswald, partner in charge of residential lettings for Carter Jonas in Hampshire, is warning that in reality it is much more; status checks need to be completed on every adult occupier aged 18 or over for all English tenancies starting on or after 1 February 2016. This also applies to lodgers living with a family and also some holiday lettings.

“The effective date from which to begin checks is January 3, 2016, the start of the 28 day period leading up to February 1 because all checks must be completed in the 28 day period before the tenancy comes into effect,” said Zaza. “In fact we have checked passports and visas for the last 12 months as good practice.

“In the past, a landlord or letting agent might meet the lead tenant and only hear about the others who would be occupying the property. Under the new rules, the landlord or letting agent needs to see every adult occupant who will occupy the property even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement while simultaneously checking immigration status and documentation, which has to be copied and kept with other personal data for a year after the tenancy ends.

“These changes have come about through the Immigration Act 2014 but do not apply to existing occupiers who moved in before the start date. Holiday lets are also exempt except where the letting is for three months or more or where a fixed letting term is then extended.

“The Act makes it a civil offence carrying a penalty of up to £3,000 to let premises to someone (either the tenant or any adult occupying the property with them) who the landlord knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not have the Right to Rent. When the Immigration Bill 2015 passes into law, it creates a criminal offence for persistent failures and this could lead to imprisonment so these rules have serious consequences.

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“Given the potential for discrimination, the Government’s code of practice advises that documents should be requested from all potential applicants while refusing a tenant because they have limited right to remain may amount to indirect discrimination.

“Property owners affected by the changes can find more information via the gov.uk website.”