In 2015, it was announced that landlords would eventually become responsible for the Right To Rent checks, meaning that for any potential tenant wishing to rent any property that you own, you must check their right to be in the country. The scheme was rolled out at the beginning of this month; as a landlord to student tenants, you are not exempt from these compulsory checks even where the university has carried out its own screening.
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In 2015, a pilot scheme implemented in Birmingham successfully identified a number of illegal immigrants renting private housing; some were known to authorities but many were not. At the end of the scheme, five landlords were issued with fixed penalty fines for failing to implement the basic checks.
The government said the scheme aimed to create a “hostile environment for illegal immigrants” in calling for the public’s assistance on the issue of illegal immigration and enabling business owners, members of the public and landlords alike to aid the government in their identification and deportation.
Under this scheme, landlords will now face a £1,000 fine for a first offence and a £3,000 fine for every subsequent person not checked who turns out to be an illegal immigrant.
What Documents are Valid?
As a landlord, you are obliged to request certain valid documents and take copies of them for your records should you be challenged by the police or an immigration officer. The following documents are acceptable:
- A British or EEA (European Economic Area) passport
- An official Home Office immigration document stating a right to be in the UK
- A permanent residence card
- A foreign passport stamped with permission for unlimited leave to stay
- UK birth or adoption certificate
These are the most common, but they are not the only documents. All that is required of you is that you ask to see the documents, check them over with the tenant present and keep a record of your check, including a date of when they were checked. If a tenant claims they have special permission, you may check their status with the Home Office. The government has made available a document to help you comply with your legal obligations. Please click here to access – it also includes the full list of acceptable document types.
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Critics Speak Out
A number of complaints have already been raised about the scheme. Landlords groups have said that many people do not understand their obligations and need help understanding what they are required to do; further, that that some may fall foul of the law out of ignorance.
The Resident Landlord Association have been most critical, feeling that unscrupulous landlords will target certain ethnicities over others, that even British citizens of ethnic minority may find themselves unfairly penalised by landlords who do not want to take the chance. They also suggest that the fear of accusations of racism may create problems in the rental sector.