Why will it get harder to rent property in London from next February?

What do the new right to rent rules mean for you?

What do the new right to rent rules mean for you? - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Our property expert Simon Gerrard explains the new right to rent rules and how they will affect tenants and landlords

Following a six-month trial in the Midlands, Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 will make it a requirement from February 1 for landlords to confirm their proposed tenants have the right to be in the UK before entering into a tenancy agreement. If checks are not made and the tenant has no right to rent the landlord will face a hefty fine of up to £3,000 per occupier. The Right-to-Rent checks must be made on anyone renting accommodation and that includes taking in a lodger.

If you are a prospective tenant, don’t be surprised or offended to be asked for proof of your right to be in the UK – to avoid any accusation of discrimination everyone should be asked to show their passport or other ID. If you are not asked for these documents you should question if these are the type of letting agents or landlord you should be dealing with!

From February 1, a landlord must confirm who will be living in their property and their ages, as all adults over the age of 18 when the tenancy begins, must be checked, even if their names are not on the tenancy agreement.

You will not need to check any further if the tenant has no restrictions on their right to stay and holds a UK, Swiss or a passport for a country in the European Economic Area. Everyone else must have their right to rent confirmed. There are a number of documents that can be used to verify identity and status and I recommend you go to gov.uk to get the comprehensive list.

The documents include: passport; birth certificate; a valid biometric immigration document. The original documents must be checked in the presence of the person to ensure they match and that there are no obvious causes for suspicion.

The landlord is expected to check the documents are genuine to the best of their ability by looking out for any indication of tampering, making sure the person you are with is the same as the photos and the date of birth is plausible, and dates match on different documents. A landlord will face a penalty if the documents are obviously fake and they allowed the tenancy to begin. If the tenant claims to have an outstanding application, and the Home Office have their documents, the landlord can make a check on the Home Office website and they will receive a clear response within two working days.

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The tenancy can begin provided it is legal for the tenant to be in the UK on the day the tenancy begins. Follow up checks must be carried out just before the expiry of the date of the tenants’ right to be in the UK or 12 months after the original check, whichever is the later. If you find the person no longer has the right to be in the UK you must make a report to the Home Office. Existing tenancies entered into before February 1 don’t need to be checked. If the tenancy renews no checks have to be made provided there is no break in the tenancy and none of the occupiers have changed. If they have then full checks on every occupant must be made.

Copies of all the documents seen must be taken and the date they were inspected noted, after which they must be kept securely until a year after the tenancy ends, after which they must be destroyed.

Simon Gerrard is the managing director of north London estate agents Martyn Gerrard, which was awarded Best Medium Letting Agent in the UK at the Negotiator awards last week. Email your questions to ham&high.property@archant.co.uk or tweet @hamhighproperty