Right to rent checks have been a source of confusion for some landlords since they were introduced in 2016.
To protect landlords, the RLA supported a case against the right to rent legislation earlier this year led by the JCWI, where Justice Spencer made clear that the law was incompatible with human rights and should be scrapped. Unfortunately, the legislation is still in place so landlords still have to follow it, despite this ruling.
The government’s appeal against this ruling by the High Court will be heard in January. However, in our manifesto for the 2019 election we are also calling for the right to rent requirements to be scrapped.
A member called us this week as they had not had to set up a new tenancy for a while and wanted to make sure they were fully aware of what to do. As part of this discussion we advised them on the right to rent process.
Landlords in England must check that the tenant has a right to rent status to be able to rent out a property. Tenants can evidence this through displaying specified documents from a given list of qualifying documents, the most common way this is achieved is through a passport. This applies equally to anyone aged 18 or above who wants to rent a property, no matter where they are from.
To complete the checks on a potential tenant you must meet them in person with the original copy of the document, or documents, that they are using to prove right to rent. You should then make sure you are confident it is a genuine document; you aren’t expected to have specialist knowledge here, but it should not be obviously forged or faked. There are services like PRADO which are available for free and can be used to view original genuine examples of different documents from many different participating countries.
Once you are satisfied the document is real and the check has been completed, take a photocopy or photograph of the document and have the tenant sign to say the check was carried out. This could be on the photocopy or a separate document.
Another big problem that stems from this legislation is that tenants coming from outside the UK must complete this check before they sign the tenancy agreement. Obviously, most of the time these tenants will be wanting to fly in and then move right into their property, but a landlord should not agree a tenancy agreement until the right to rent check is satisfied. Landlords are backed into a difficult circumstance where they have to trust a tenant to fly over without a signed tenancy agreement, do the checks, and then sign them up once they arrive. This is not a sensible situation to put landlords in on top of all the other legislation that should be complied with.