Letting to international students: what to know about Right to Rent checks
If you’re still a little hazy on the finer points of the government’s Right to Rent scheme (introduced in England on 1st February 2016), then we can enlighten you. It doesn’t matter who you let your property out to, the Right to Rent legislation places new demands on landlords, and it’s vital to know what the law says and what your responsibilities are.
You must check that every tenant is aged 18 or over. This is the case even if there is no tenancy agreement, they’re not named in the tenancy agreement, or the tenancy agreement is not yet in writing.
Checking immigration status
As well as checking that every tenant is aged 18 or older, you must check that they are legally entitled to rent property in the UK. This will involve asking to see a single document, such as a UK passport, or a combination of two documents, such as a UK birth certificate and full or provisional driving license issued in the UK. More information on which documents are acceptable in a right to rent check can be found here. Every new tenant must undergo the rigours of the Right to Rent checks – don’t just assume the tenant is a British citizen.
The Rent to Right checks must be carried out within 28 days of the start of the tenancy.
Renting to international students
Naturally, the same Right to Rent checks apply to international students in private rented accommodation. Any student wanting to rent a property in the UK must prove they have a right to live in the UK before the landlord rents a room out or produces a tenancy agreement. However, the Right to Rent checks do not apply to students living in university halls of residence or student accommodation.
How to carry out the checks
You will need to ask each new tenant to provide you with original copies of the relevant documents which prove they have a right to rent in the UK. You will need to make sure these documents are genuine, and it is important that you take a copy (a legible photocopy or photograph) of each document for safe-keeping. Also record the date when you carried out the check, and the tenant should be present.
What if the tenant can’t produce the right document/s?
A tenant may not be able to produce the right documents, but that doesn’t automatically mean they do not have a right to rent. You can use the landlord’s checking service to ascertain whether the tenant has a right to rent, as it might be that the Home Office has their documents, or they have been given ‘permission to rent’ by the Home Office.
What if the tenant only has a ‘time-limited right to rent’?
When carrying out your initial checks, you may discover that the tenant only has the legal right to rent property in the UK for a limited period of time. If this is the case, you must carry out a follow-up check either 12 months following the previous check, or just before the permission deadline to stay in the UK is up (whichever date comes last).
You must notify the Home Office if your follow-up checks reveal that the tenant no longer has the right to rent property in the UK.
What happens if you don’t comply?
Landlords who rent their property to someone who is not legally allowed to rent in the UK can receive an unlimited fine or even be sent to prison. Further details of possible fines and penalties can be found here.
If you have a letting agent acting on your behalf, then they can carry out the Right to Rent checks for you. For this, and for more details about our services for landlords in Islington, Stoke Newington, Newington Green and Highbury, contact our agents today.