Right to Rent – An analysis of the first months
The new right to rent scheme has been in place for all new tenancies across England from the 1st February 2016. The scheme requires that all adult occupiers of a property have their ‘right to rent’ checked before being allowed to occupy the property. The scheme has serious consequences for those who fail to comply with their right to rent obligations. Landlords and Agents face fines of up to £3,000 per tenant if they rent to a person who is disqualified as a result of their immigration status, not to mention the loss of professional reputation.
Due to the unique nature of Right2Rent‘s service, with all our checks being carried out by Immigration Lawyers, we have been exposed to a large number of unusual scenarios where Landlords and Letting Agents have not been clear about whether a tenant has a right to rent. We thought it would be helpful to share our experience of those cases where the new right to rent rules are baffling Landlords and Letting Agents.
How Long Before a Further Right to Rent Check is Needed
One difficulty in the new right to rent scheme is identifying how long a person can rent a property for before a further re-check is needed. The code of practice can be difficult to interpret, particularly where a person’s immigration status is due to expire in the near future. There are also some forms of leave which are granted for long periods but where a tenant may only be allowed in the UK for specified periods of time (for example a multi-entry visit visa may be valid for 5 years, but the visitor is only allowed to enter the UK for up to 6 months at a time). We have had to provide guidance to many tenants and Landlords where the result seems to be counter-intuitive.
We anticipate that there will be even more confusion in future due to the way the right to rent scheme is currently set up. At present, there is a need to carry out a further check up to 28 days before a tenant’s current immigration status is due to expire. However, a tenant will not be able to have obtained a fresh grant of leave to remain at that point, as in many immigration routes they cannot apply earlier than 28 days before their leave is due to expire. That means that Landlords and Letting Agents will be forced to check a tenants right to rent at a point when their status is shortly going to end! What is worse, in most cases the tenant is unlikely to have their immigration documents as they will have sent them to the Home Office when extending their leave, which is likely to cause even more difficulties.
Those who have status but do not have one of the required documents to prove it
We had a situation in the past week where a tenant had been prevented from renting out a very expensive London property, due to the Home Office facing technical issues which delayed the production of their Biometric Residence Permit. Although the tenant had emails from the Home Office confirming they were lawfully present in the UK, they had no way of proving it with the documents required under the right to rent scheme! The Tenant, together with his wife and two children, were forced to incur expensive hotel bills in a London hotel whilst waiting for the situation to be resolved. Even worse, the Landlords Checking Service refused to confirm the tenant had a right to rent as they only deal with tenants who have an outstanding application/appeal and not where their application has already been granted!
Although we were able to assist the tenant in question by liaising with the relevant authorities in getting the Biometric Residence Permit issued promptly, we were reminded due to this experience of how inflexible the right to rent scheme currently is. We can imagine that more and more tenants will face unfair situations where they are stopped from renting a property through no fault of their own.
Interpreting Visas and Immigration Documents
As Immigration Lawyers working with immigration documents day-in and day-out, we are used to seeing a wide variety of documents which establish Immigration Documents. However, the number of enquiries that we have received from those with unusual forms of immigration status has brought home the difficulty that Landlords and Agents face in interpreting unusual documents.
We have found that Landlords and Letting Agents have particularly struggled in interpreting documents where tenants have passport stamps or entry clearance vignettes which are not clear on their face in terms of what status is being granted. For example, the use of the word ‘settlement’ often means that a person has been granted indefinite leave to remain or enter which would give them a continuous right to rent. However, in other situations, ‘settlement’ will refer to grants of only a limited period of leave to remain. It has been very tough for many of the Landlords and Agents who use our services to know what status is being granted and when!
Lack of Passports for Tenants
Some of our Letting Agents and Landlords were surprised to learn that EEA nationals are able to travel within the EEA just relying upon their National ID card which means that they were unable to provide passports as part of the right to rent check.
Even more difficulty has been caused in cases where British citizens do not have a passport. It is estimated that 17.5% of residents in the UK do not hold a passport (following the 2011 Census). For many British citizens who have not travelled, it has never been a problem to not have a passport. However, now that landlords or their agents must indiscriminately carry out right to rent checks, British citizens are required to provide certain specified documents to establish their right to rent. The code of practice is vague in terms of the requirements, and the required documents do not always appear to make logical sense. We have been happy to help many Landlords and Letting Agents through the process, but these particular right to rent checks have often been the trickiest to get through.
The past three months have been very busy for us, with over 40 letting agents having registered for our services. We have guided all our users through the process of carrying out right to rent checks, and it has been our aim that wherever a tenant has lawful immigration status in the UK, we will assist our Landlords and Letting Agents in getting into a position where they can comply fully with the right to rent scheme to permit them to rent to the tenant in question.
If you would like more information about the services that we can provide please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.right2rent.co.uk.
If you would like to share your experiences of the right to rent scheme, please leave a comment below.