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    Right to Rent: What landlords need to know

    For all new tenancies that started on or after February 1, landlords in  England have to check that the tenants have a right to live in the UK before  granting them a tenancy. In other words, they must be able to prove they are a UK, EU or Swiss citizen, or that they have been issued with a time-limited right to reside here, ie a permit or visa.

    Landlords who deliberately or in some cases even accidentally let a property to an illegal immigrant risk a £3,000 fine. Persistent offenders risk a  jail sentence.

    Here are a few other important Right to Rent facts for landlords:

    • The new rule only applies to new tenancies, not to tenancies which started before February, even if they are renewed.
    • It only applies to adults who will be living in the property as their main or only home. Children are exempt, even if they turn 18 during the tenancy.
    • Landlords must ask for proof of the right to rent (ie, photo ID) from EVERY tenant, even those who seem to be obviously British or European to avoid accusations of discrimination.
    • Landlords or their letting agent must see an original copy of the tenant’s photo ID in the presence of the tenant and take a copy which cannot be altered to keep on file for a year after the end of the tenancy.
    • It is the landlord’s duty to protect the copy of the tenant’s ID.
    • Even if the landlord hires a letting agent to carry out the right to rent checks, it is ultimately their responsibility to make sure the checks have been carried out.
    • It is illegal for landlords or their letting agents to discriminate against foreign tenants who require a time-limited visa to live in the UK.
    • When accepting a tenant with a time-limited visa, it is the landlord’s duty to terminate the tenancy when the visa expires unless it has been renewed or extended. If the tenant remains in the UK after their visa or permit has expired, the landlord must inform the Home Office.

    Details about what forms of ID are acceptable are available from the Home Office , which will also provided help with checking the validity of visas. It has set up an online checking service for landlords and promised to give them an answer within 2 days. If landlords aren’t given a definite response within 48 hours, they will receive an automated email telling them to grant the tenancy.

    Landlords who accept an overseas tenant prior to their arrival in the UK will be able to sign the tenancy agreement before they have checked the tenant’s documentation (as they won’t be able to do this in their presence until they arrive) but the Right to Rent checks must be completed before they move in. In reality, it would be risky for landlords to sign a tenancy agreement until they’re certain the tenant has a right to rent as then they might have to evict them.

    Landlords who don’t want the hassle or responsibility of checking a tenant’s right to rent can pay a third party to carry out the checks on their behalf. One such is right2rent.co.uk, which promises to guarantee validity of the tenant’s documents and also keep them on file, for a small fee.