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Warning for landlords: YOU now need to carry out immigration checks

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From 1 February 2016, landlords need to carry out 'Right to Rent' checks on all new tenants to make sure they are legally allowed to live in the country. Here, we summarise the key points of the new rules.

From today (1 February 2016), landlords will have to check whether their tenants are legally allowed to live in the UK before agreeing to a tenancy agreement.

The ‘Right to Rent’ checks are part of the government’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Here’s what you need to know about the new rules:

Who do ‘Right to Rent’ checks apply to?

Anyone who lets out private property in England will have to apply these checks. This includes people who sublet property or take in a lodger.

Do I need to check everyone living in my property or just the person named on the tenancy agreement?

You will need to check anyone aged 18 and over who lives at the property whether they’re named on the tenancy agreement or not.

Do I need to check my current tenants?

No. Existing lodgers and tenants do not need to be checked. These rules are for new tenancies only.

How do I check my tenants’ documents?

First, you need to check the property is the tenant’s only or main home. The Home Office suggests looking for the following:

-they keep most of their belongings there.
-their partner or children live with them.
-they’re registered to vote at the property.
-they’re registered with a doctor using that address.

You will then need to see original copies of documents that prove your tenants are legally allowed to live in the UK and check the documents are genuine. (Click here and go to page three for a list of approved documents).

Again, the Home Office suggests checking:

-the documents haven’t been too damaged and don’t look like they’ve been changed.
-the dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired.
-the photos on the documents are of the tenant.
-the dates of birth are the same on all documents (and are believable).

Then you’ll need to make copies of all documents and record the date you made the copies.

If a tenant’s permission to stay in the UK is time limited, the paperwork will need to be checked regularly (12 months after the previous check or before the expiry date of their right to stay).

All documents need to be kept for 12 months after a tenancy ends.

What are the penalties if I fail to carry out the checks?

You can be fined if you rent your property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK and you can’t show that you checked their right to rent.

The amount you have to pay will depend on the type of accommodation and if you’ve received a civil penalty before.

If you rent out your property you can be fined £1,000, or £3,000 for a repeat offence. If you live in your property and rent out a room, you can be fined £80 the first time and £1,000 for a further penalty.

Can I ask my managing agent to carry out the checks?       

Yes. You can ask your letting agent or managing agent to carry out the checks for you. Make sure you have this agreement in writing.

If a tenant sub-lets your property without you knowing, they are responsible for carrying out checks on any sub-tenants and will have to pay any fines if they don’t do the check correctly.

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