You have probably now seen the media reports about the Government’s ‘Right to rent’ scheme, which I briefly blogged about on Monday. The story was covered on the national news and as it is being trialled in our area, the BBC midlands news featured it quite strongly. The rules make it compulsory for landlords to check that anyone occupying their property, even if it’s just a lodger, is legally entitled to be in the UK
I just want to give you a little more detail that I’ve taken from a rather long Home Office press release, but please don’t see this post as definitive, it’s a summary only. Full information is available on the gov.uk website. It’s very much up to landlords themselves to make sure they are complying with the law; so if you are in any doubt, please check with the Home Office. The fines for getting things wrong can be substantial.
The checks you will need carry out are fairly simple and not that different from those that many landlords already make. Help is there if needed, both online and via a helpline. It’s very important to stress that landlords should not be frightened of letting property to someone, just because they are not a UK citizen.
Also, please don’t confuse these new rules with those which restrict benefits including Housing Benefit for people from outside the ‘European Economic Area.’ Just because a tenant is legally entitled to be in the UK and has a ‘right to rent’ it does not mean they are entitled to Housing Benefit. Please look out for a post on this subject in the near future.
The main points are:
• The new rules are now in place and affect tenancies created from 1st December 2014 onwards.
• The scheme is being trialled in the West Midlands, but will eventually be rolled out to the rest of the country.
• Most types of private tenancies are affected, whether it’s a flat or house or even a room let to a lodger. Council and Housing Association properties are excluded as they already comply with a different set of regulations
• Some, but not all student accommodation is excluded. You will still normally need to make the same checks on students that you would on other tenants.
• Landlords will need to see evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, usually a passport or biometric residence permit.
• A list of documents that are acceptable proof of identity is available on gov.uk
• Copies of the documentation should be taken and kept for a year after the tenancy ends.
• Landlords should check the identity of everyone aged 18 over who will live in the property, whatever they believe their nationality to be.
• In most cases landlords will be able to check without needing to contact the Home Office. In cases, where tenants do not have their documents, e.g. if there is an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on www.gov.uk They will receive an answer within two working days.
• There are fines of up to £3000 for landlords who do not comply with the new rules.
Don’t forget, there is a helpline. I gave it a test ring myself and was pleased to find that I got straight through to an advisor in less than 10 seconds. If you need it, its 0300 069 9799