AC Forscutt, Northwood’s Head of Compliance provides a useful breakdown of what landlords and letting agents need to be aware of in order to comply with the new immigration checks.
This week marked the introduction of Right to Rent immigration checks in a pilot area, covering the West Midlands and including Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell.
This means that all landlords and letting agents in this area have to confirm that any potential tenant has a right to live in this country before letting them move into a property. This includes landlords who take in lodgers or sub-let property.
Here are five things you need to know about the Right to Rent
1. When it goes live
The requirement to check someone’s right to live in this country only applies from the date the checks are introduced in your area, not to agreements that are already in place or renewals as long as the parties are the same and the tenant has continuously lived in the property. For the West Midlands this means that the requirement applies to all new tenancies from the 1st December 2014. It is expected that the scheme will be introduced countrywide from 2015.
2. Supporting paperwork
Two Codes of Practice for landlords and agents have been published; the first gives information on the scheme and includes a list of acceptable documents to check. It also explains in detail the obligations and the circumstances in which checks must be made. The second Code of Practice details how to avoid unlawful discrimination when completing the necessary checks.
3. Acceptable documents
Letting agents or landlords will need to see and retain copies of documents such as passports, birth certificates, driving licenses or biometric residence permits for ALL adults aged 18 and over who will be living in the property.
4. Using the Home Office
If a potential tenant cannot produce the necessary documents, the landlord can use the Home Office’s Landlord Checking Service. There is an expected turnaround of two days for any queries.
5. The penalties
Failure to comply with the requirements will lead to penalties. There will be a sliding scale of heavier penalties for those who persistently fail to carry out the checks. However, if you are misled by a skilful forgery you will not be penalised, as long as you keep a record of the necessary checks being done.
Although making these checks will undoubtedly add to the administrative burden when letting out a property, many landlords and agents are likely to already be complying by carrying out extensive identity checks on potential tenants.
As and when the requirements to do these checks are introduced in your area, your local Northwood team will be happy to assist you in making sure the correct documents are reviewed. Our offices already undertake identity checks of all potential tenants and as such are well placed to carry out these checks.
Northwood is one of the largest and most recognised lettings and sales agents in the U.K. and the leading supplier of Guaranteed Rent to give landlords complete peace of mind.
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