Do Your Tenants Have the Right to Rent?

Document with the title immigration with a pencil over it.

Landlords will have a little more paperwork in the near future as regulations come into force that put the onus on you to check a tenant’s immigration status. Fines of up to £3,000 can be issued for non-compliance with the controversial new rules and one landlord in the West Midlands has already been slapped with a £2,000 fine.

The ‘right to rent’ scheme means that landlords must check the nationality of potential tenants, together with the visa status. A separate penalty can be enforced for each tenant that does not have their papers in order. If a tenant’s visa expires before the end of the tenancy, the landlord must make sure that it is renewed and if it is not, they must inform the Home Office.

It’s a potential minefield for landlords, as they must make sure they have carried out all reasonable checks without falling foul of anti-discrimination laws. By law, landlords are simply not allowed to discriminate against certain nationalities or races when choosing tenants. Any tenant who is rejected unfairly can sue the landlord, using the 2010 Equality Act. Anne-Marie Balfour, a lawyer specialising in housing contract law, said: “Landlords need to tread a fine line between immigration compliance and avoiding race discrimination.”

There has been a backlash against the regulations, as the burden of weeding out illegal immigrants seems to have been pushed on to the private housing sector. Provided the landlord requests the relevant certificates, makes copies and checks that they are dated correctly, though, it should be viewed as simply one more piece of red tape in the rentals process.

The Home Office offers a free Landlords Checking Service that allows landlords to see which documents they can accept and a variety of companies are springing up to offer third-party checks that may or may not offer sufficient protection.

With such hefty fines awaiting a transgression, it pays to have the best checks in place. All landlords, whether they have a buy-to-let empire or one property, should take note of the ‘right to rent’ regulations and ensure that the paperwork is in place.


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