Right to Rent and how to avoid the penalties

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We knew it was coming, but now we know for sure.  The Right to Rent checks, which at the moment only landlords in the West Midlands pilot area need to worry about, are due to be rolled out for the rest of England from 1 February 2016.

 The first point is that this is only in England.  We are told that the scheme is to be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom in due course, but for the moment they are safe.

 So looking to England - what will this mean for landlords?  

 The most important thing is to take steps to minimise your exposure to the penalties - currently a £3,000 penalty notice, but which are set to become more serious if the new Immigration Bill becomes law (as it could then involve a prison sentence).

 Who will do the checks?

 The first thing landlords need to decide is - will you do the checks yourself or will you get someone else to do them for you?  

 If you use a letting agent, they will generally be responsible for the checks, but you need to make sure that you have written confirmation of this.  Then if there is a problem, it will be the agent who is liable for the penalty, not you.  

 If you manage your properties yourself, you may want to consider employing a specialist company to do this work for you - but again, make sure you have written confirmation of this, so the liability will fall on the company and not you.

 Doing it yourself

 If you decide to do the checks yourself, your main aim should be to put yourself in a position where you can prove that you have complied with the rules so you are not liable for the penalty.

 You will therefore need to have rigorous systems in place to ensure that you do the checks, and (most importantly) keep copies (which can be electronic copies) of all relevant paperwork so you are in a position to prove that you have done the checks.

 Remember - if you cannot prove that you have complied with the rules, it is (evidentially speaking) the same as if you had done nothing. Keeping proof is crucial.

 Be aware also that the checks need to be carried out on EVERYONE - not just people you suspect could be foreign or just the person signing the tenancy agreement.  They need to be done for all applicants and for all adults who will be occupying the property.  

 Do not make exceptions.  Even if its your Mother.

 Your prime objective

 So far as these checks are concerned, note that your prime objective is NOT to prove whether or not Mr X has the right to rent in England, but to be in a position to prove that you have complied with the rules.

 Provided you have done that, and provided you have reported any relevant circumstances to the Secretary of State (and here it is better to be safe than sorry) you should be all right.

 Everything else is up to the Immigration Officials.

 Training options

 If you decide to do things yourself it is crucial that you have proper training.  

 My company Easy Law Training have an online Update training course which has a section on right to rent, although bookings for this will close after 3 November - you can find out more here.   If you are too late, sign up for the notifications list as we may run it again.

 Our Landlord Law 2016 Conference (sponsored by TDS) which will be in Manchester this year, will include a talk from immigration and eligibility expert Sue Lukes on right to rent.  See here for information (and a clip from Sue’s talk at our 2015 Conference).

 Finally, we are hoping to run a one day workshop on right to rent and the rules in early 2016 - if you are interested in this please complete the form here.


Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer and director of the training company Easy Law Training Ltd.

Posted by on 29 October 2015

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