New Right To Rent Checks – Summing Up the Rights and Obligations of Landlords And Tenants
By Oshin Shahiean of OTS Solicitors
landlords who fail to implement the checks and are caught letting a property to someone who has no right to be in the UK could face a fine of £3,000 per tenant. Under the new Immigration Bill 2016/17, currently being debated in Parliament, this penalty could extend to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.
In the last few days, the Home Office gave the green light to landlords to start right to rent checks now. Checks will apply to rental agreements entered into on or after 1st February 2016, and children under 18 years of age do not need to be verified as having a legal right to be in the country.
In preparation for the nation-wide roll-out of the scheme, this article will provide a summary of both landlords and tenants rights and obligations. There is a significant chance of a challenge being brought against the Home Office, on the grounds that the scheme contravenes tenants’ Human Rights, but in the meantime it is imperative that both landlords and tenants are both confident of their legal position with regards to the operation of right to rent checks.
Landlord's Right to Rent Obligations
Right to rent refers to a person’s Immigration status and whether or not they have a right to rent property in the UK. An individual’s right to rent may be permanent or time-limited, depending on their visa or whether or not they have Indefinite Leave to Remain.
People who have automatic right to rent include:
- British citizens
- EEA nationals
- Swiss nationals
Before letting a property to a tenant, a landlord must be satisfied after checking relevant documents, that the perspective tenant or lodger has a right to rent. Relevant documents can include:
- a passport
- an identity card
- a biometric Immigration document issued by the Home Office
- a passport or travel document showing the tenant has an Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK
- a certificate of naturalisation as a British Citizen
landlords must then keep electronic or paper copies of the documents used to verify the perspective tenant’s right to rent status for 12 months after the tenancy ends.
All tenants over the age of 18 years must be verified.
Reasonable care must be taken to establish that the verification documents presented are real and not forged. For example, the landlord should be satisfied that the documents are original, check them in front of the tenant and look for obvious signs of forgery.
OTS Solicitors have the experience and expertise required to assist landlords with right to rent checks. If you are concerned about your obligations or want to make certain that you are carrying out the checks within the parameters of the law, then please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.
Tenants’ Rights with Regards to Right to Rent Checks
If you are a tenant, you may be wondering what your legal rights are with regards to the new right to rent checks. What if you feel that you are being denied the lease of a property simply because your race or religion causes people to assume you do not have an automatic right to rent? Do you have any rights if your landlord evicts you because they do not want the hassle of carrying out right to rent checks when your time-limited visa is due to expire?
Thankfully, under UK law, you are protected from discrimination on the grounds of race and religious preferences by the Equality Act 2010.
A landlord who refuses to rent a property, or directly or indirectly discourages a person from applying to rent a property on the grounds of their race and/or religious beliefs may be found in breach of The Equality Act 2010. Individuals affected by the breach have the right to claim damages in Court.
The Equality Act 2010 says the following things could be unlawful discrimination when renting a property if it's because of a protected characteristic:
- offering a property on worse or less favourable terms
- refusing to let a property to certain individuals
- treating a person badly or less favourably
- not allowing certain tenants to use certain facilities or benefits - for example, a communal garden, or imposing conditions or restrictions on their use of these things
- evicting a person or taking steps to evict them
- behaving in a way which causes an individual distress or offends or intimidates them - this qualifies as harassment under the Act
- punishing a person because they complain about discrimination or help someone else complain - the Equality Act calls this victimisation.
landlords may discriminate unintentionally because they are not sure how to carry out right to rent checks in a lawful manner. However, this is not a defence; the Government has published guidelines for landlords detailing how to carry out the checks in a non- discriminatory manner.
OTS Solicitors have the experience and expertise to advise tenants applying for accommodation through the right to rent check process. Recognised as one of the best Immigration solicitors in London, we will ensure that your rights under the Equality Act 2010 are fully protected throughout the procedure.
To talk to us further, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960 to make an appointment with one of our Immigration lawyers.