Right to Rent scheme to be rolled out nationwide

As of 1st February 2016, all landlords across the UK will be required to check whether or not their prospective tenants have the right to rent in the UK, or face hefty fines.

The purpose of the Right to Rent scheme is to restrict illegal immigrants from seeking residence within the private rented sector. Under section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, it will be a criminal offence to rent accommodation to illegal immigrants after this date.

The national roll-out comes following a pilot scheme in the West Midlands, and despite some Government officials raising concerns that such checks could lead to 'potentially discriminatory behaviour'.

The scheme has also been criticised for forcing private landlords to carry out Government responsibilities.

However, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, said: "As the evaluation of the first phase in parts of the West Midlands found, the Right to Rent scheme is not discriminatory.

"It is based on the simple principle that people in this country illegally should not be able to access the housing and services to the disadvantage of people who are here legally and play by the rules."

Before offering a tenant (or lodger) a room, landlords will soon have to carry out compulsory checks on tenants to confirm that they have the right to live in the UK.

Landlord responsibilities

Only new tenants entering into an agreement on or after 1st February 2016 need to be checked.

Landlords must check identity documents for all new tenants. Proof of a prospective tenant's right to rent in the UK must be given in the form of photo ID, passport and visa details or work permits.

Copies should also be taken and it is recommended that these are dated and kept on record for the lifetime of the tenancy and for 12 months afterwards.

A full list of acceptable identity documents can be found here.

If the prospective tenants explains that they have an application or appeal with the Home Office, landlords will be able to conduct a check on that person's right to rent via the Landlords Checking Service. A response should be received within two working days.

It is also important that Landlords conduct follow-up checks in line with visa expiration dates. If it transpires that a tenant no longer has the right to rent, landlords must report the tenant to the Home Office. They are not currently required to evict the tenant. Landlords are also urged to apply to the Home Office for a 'Statutory Excuse' to protect them against a civil penalty.

If landlords fail to carry out the correct procedures and are found guilty of renting out a room or property to someone living in the UK illegally, they could be fined up to £3,000.

More information and codes of practice can be found here.