Under the new 'right to rent' scheme, traditional landlords, people who sub-let and people who take in lodgers must now check the right of prospective tenants to reside in the country. Failure to make the checks could lead to fines up to £3,000. In addition, if someone’s visa expires before the tenancy ends, the landlord is responsible for making sure that it is renewed.
These are tough rules for landlords and letting agents alike. They dictate that we must take all reasonable steps to check the validity of the documents presented to us. According to the Government, we will not be penalised, if, having taken all reasonable steps to check a document’s validity, we are fooled by a good forgery which appears to be genuine.
But what are reasonable steps? Speaking from a lettings agent's point-of-view, further clarity needs to be given. Civil servants, especially those in immigration and border control, will get specialist training on what constitutes a legal document, but landlords and agents do not. So what constitutes 'reasonable steps' or even a 'good forgery'?
To us, it seems that the new rules are basically making landlords into 'front-line staff' to determine whether or not a prospective tenant is an illegal alien. But without the training, we're always going to have that worry that maybe we've been fooled by fraudulent papers. As letting agents, we see a lot of papers and are more likely to spot a bad counterfeit, but what of the landlord with one property or one room who'll only ever need to encounter papers once or twice a year or less? More clarity is needed.
According to the YouGov website, under the Right To Rent rules, landlords must:
If you don't fancy doing these checks yourself, you can ask a letting agent to do them for you, but make sure you agree this with the agent in writing.
A trial of the new scheme was undertaken in the West Midlands at the end of last year. As a result, one landlord has been fined £2,000 and is currently appealing. Hopefully, the final ruling for this case will result in greater clarity for the rest of us. We will certainly be watching with interest.
Member since: 11th March 2014
My name is Victoria Hunter and I'm a true Hertford person - I went to school in Hertford and grew up here. I understand the importance of bringing trusted businesses and the community together, and believe...