Landlords and tenants: are
you remaining compliant?

Landlords in England are required to ensure that their tenants or lodgers have a legal right to rent a residential property. If they are found to be in breach of the rules, they are liable to be given a hefty fine or a five-year prison sentence. Landlords must check every tenant, as it is against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens. So it is important that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities.

It is advisable for English landlords to record the following:

  • the full name and date of birth of all adults who will live in their property
  • the names and dates of birth of all children under 18 who will be living with them
  • whether each of the adults named has permission to be in the UK (using evidence such as a British passport or a biometric residence card. An exhaustive list of other suitable official documents is available here).

For people who live overseas and wish to arrange accommodation before travelling, the government suggests that a ‘conditional agreement’ is drawn up. This should state that the landlord agrees to offer the tenancy, provided the tenant can produce evidence that they have the right to rent before they move in.

The rules are slightly different for short-term rental, please check here for full details.

A challenge to the law

Currently Right to Rent checks are only applicable in England. In March this year, a High Court judge ruled that it would be illegal to extend this scheme to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland without a review, as the policy breached human rights law.

The government is hoping to win an appeal on this ruling but no date for the appeal has been set.

David Smith, policy director of the Residential Landlords Association, said:

‘The Right to Rent has been a failure. No one has been prosecuted under the scheme but it has created a great deal of anxiety for landlords who do not want to go to prison for getting it wrong.

‘We are disappointed the government has chosen to appeal against what was a clear and damning verdict by the High Court.

‘However, we will ensure that the views of landlords are well represented as we send a message that they should not be used to cover for the failings in the UK border agencies.’

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