rent-sign_2415118bFrom 1 February 2016 all private landlords in England will have to conduct right to rent checks on their prospective tenants. So if you’ve invested in the buy-to-let market this will affect you. But how are such checks carried out?

Investment choice

Instead of leaving money in a bank earning a paltry rate of interest, many business owners invest their hard-earned cash in the buy-to-let property market. Whilst this certainly has its benefits, one major downside is that private landlords must comply with a raft of legislation. On 1 February 2016, when provisions contained in the Immigration Act 2014are extended, a new right to rent check will be added to the mix.

New major risks

From that date all private landlords in England will be required to check that a prospective tenant has a right to be in the country. This duty has already been in force in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton since 1 December 2014. If you fail to properly carry out the right to rent check itself, you will face a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant. It’s also a criminal offence to allow a private rental property to be occupied by an adult who does not have the right to rent.

How do you check?

Under right to rent landlords should check accepted identity documents for all new tenants over the age of 18 and take copies before they allow them to occupy the rental property. The documents which are deemed acceptable for demonstrating a right to rent in the UK are set out in two lists – List A and List B. Essentially, these are the same documents that are requested to check that a prospective employee has the right to work here.

Definite or indefinite

Where a prospective tenant produces a document from List A, it indicates that they have an indefinite right to be in the UK. Conversely, if a prospective tenant produces documents that are in List B, you’ll know that they only have a right to be here for a limited period and further checks will need to be carried out.

Always insist on seeing original documents – do not, under any circumstances, accept copies as these can easily be forged. Further information on what you should look out for is on the GOV.UK portal

No documents provided

If a tenant can’t provide you with the required right to rent documents, or they give you incomplete information, your safest course of action is to refuse to rent your property to them. You certainly don’t want them moving in on the promise that “the documents you need are packed in a box somewhere” .

If you don’t want the hassle of conducting a right to rent check yourself, a tenant referencing agency can do this for a fee of around £10-£20.

There are no plans to force landlords to conduct right to rent checks on existing tenants; this only applies to tenancies which commence on or after 1 February 2016.

You’ll need to request documents from List A (which indicate an indefinite right to be in the UK) or List B (which indicate a right to be here for a limited period). Always insist on seeing originals and keep good copies. If a prospective tenant can’t produce their documentation, refuse to rent to them.