Right To Rent – Finding Our Way?

On 1st February the new “right to rent” legislation came into force as part of the Immigration Act of 2014.  Now that the dust has started to settle is it time to take stock of things?

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Background

The legislation was trialled in the West Midlands for over one year and it does beg the question, did anyone at the Government listen to the feedback on the legislation or just plough on regardless?

We can see the benefit of checking Tenants legal status however after just one month of the new legislation we came to the conclusion that it feels like a bolt on.

The Legislation

The legislation means that anyone renting a room or a home to someone over 18 years of age has to check that person’s Right To Rent in the UK.  This check takes the form of physically seeing one of a list of approved original documents e.g. passport, residence permit, prior to allowing them in the premises but no more than 28 days before the actual start date.  The agent or landlord should check the likeness with the person present, check the validity of the document and take a copy, signing, dating it and retaining the copy for one year after the tenancy ends.

Our Experience

Based upon our experience in over 50% of tenancies the Tenants are not local and the only face to face contact with the new Tenants is at the viewing and the actual check-in, with the remainder of the lettings process being done over the phone, by e-mail or by post.  So in over 50% of cases we have two points where we see the Tenants and can check their “right to rent” evidence.

The Viewing

Should we now ask prospective Tenants to bring their passport/evidence to a viewing?  How many of them are going to want to do that, especially as they may not even like the property.  Even then, they will have to come back to our office to copy it, what if they have other viewings afterwards and what if they do not intend to move in for another six weeks. The rules state you have to take the evidence no more than 28 days prior to the start of the tenancy, so not much use in those circumstances!

The Check-in

For the majority of Tenants this will be the second time they meet the Agent.  Some Agents do check-ins at the property so there is no opportunity to take a copy of the evidence of right to rent in these cases!

For other agents the check-in takes place in the office and the evidence of right to rent can be copied and checked for a true likeness at this point of time.  However, what if the evidence is not acceptable? Landlords will not be happy if they find out their new Tenant can not move in on actual the date the tenancy is due to start and they will have a void whilst an alternative is found.

The Verdict

The legislation feels like a square peg in a round hole and there is little synergy with the lettings process, it just feels like a bolt on.

One suggestion we have to get round the issues of Tenants not being local is to pre-vet your Tenants and get them to send you a copy of their passport prior to their check-in.  This way you can spot if the passport has expired or something is wrong before they are sat in front of you asking for the keys and causing an issue for everybody.  Then when it comes to the actual check-in all you are doing is checking that the original is a true likeness to the person sat in front of you, signing and dating it and keeping a copy, this way nobody gets any surprises.

Students who are signing up on a joint and severally liable tenancy and who return to their homes during the summer often arrive and check-in at different times.  We are looking forward to getting our heads round this one!