Residential Tenancies – new legal challenges for private landlords

As a private landlord, it is important that you are aware that with effect from 1 February 2016, all private landlords in England will have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property. This will be known as “the right to rent”.

Under a Pilot Scheme, this is already a compulsory requirement for private landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton but will apply all across England from 1 February 2016.

The new rules, which come out of The Immigration Act 2014 (IA2014), prohibit private landlords of residential properties from allowing certain people to occupy those properties based on the immigration status of the occupiers.

Landlords will have to check the status of prospective tenants or authorised occupiers, to ascertain whether those parties have the right to occupy the premises before granting a tenancy.

Landlords must also make sure that someone’s right to occupy the premises does not lapse, which may make it easy for private landlords to forget to check this requirement on a tenancy renewal.

Failing to fulfil this obligation prohibition could lead to a civil penalty of up to £3,000.

Who do the Rules Apply To?
The rules apply to landlords who let out private rented accommodation to a tenant as their main or only home. The potential tenant must be a “relevant national”.

Who Is A Relevant National?
Relevant nationals are British citizens; a national of an EEA State or a national of Switzerland.

Additionally, anyone who has leave to enter and remain in the UK from the Home Office has a right to rent accommodation. It is important that a landlord keep track of the tenants’ right to remain in the UK.

Which Tenancies Do The Rules Apply To?
Tenancy agreements that started before 1st December 2014 or where those tenancies are subsequently renewed are not affected by this legislation provided that the renewed agreement is between the same people and there is no break in the agreement.

What Types of Tenancies Are Covered by the Rules?
The rules apply to all residential agreements, leases under 7 years, licences, sub tenancies and sub leases but exclude:

• Student halls of residence and accommodation provided by universities and colleges
• Accommodation in care homes, hospitals and hospices.
• Accommodation provided by an employer
• Accommodation provided by an NHS body
• Refuges and homeless hostels managed by voluntary organisations, charities and social landlords
• Accommodation provided by a local authority under a legal duty,
• Mobile homes that are used as a permanent residence, except where the mobile home owner is letting out their home to someone else
• Holiday accommodation
• Accommodation provided by the government to asylum seekers
• Social housing

What documents might a landlord want to check?
Typical documents include passports, national identity or residence cards, certificate of registration or naturalisation.

A landlord is expected to retain copies (not originals) of the documents inspected and keep these safely and securely for as long as the tenancy lasts and then for at least one year afterwards.

Home Office checking service
The Home Office has set up a ‘Landlords Checking Service’ that can be used if a prospective tenant doesn’t have the documents to prove that they are here lawfully. As long as the person provides the landlord with a Home Office reference number, the Home Office will do the check and get back to the landlord within 2 working days confirming if there is a right to rent or not. This service is only provided to the landlord, not the tenant.

For further information concerning this article please contact Sangita Manek on 0208 515 7574 or email sam@blasermills.co.uk