I had an interesting discussion with a gumtree landlord recently about 'right to rent' checks on new applicants. Their view was that agents (or landlords with new lets) are not required to check the ID of UK citizens, it could be deemed as discrimination if we did and potentially even a GDPR issue.
Hang on, what?
I carefully explained that in order for it not to be a discrimination issue, a letting agent or landlord must check and verify the identity of all applicants by reviewing their passport and confirming it is a true likeness and a correct copy (did you know that one of the most highly forged passports in the world is the UK Passport?) and if the applicant has a visa with an end date, the landlord or agent should set the end date on a CRM system and contact that individual when the date on the visa has expired to request an updated visa. If none can be provided the landlord or agent must inform the home office of a potential breach of The Immigration Act 2014. None of these factors fall under GDPR as we are obligated to do these checks under legislation which overrides the consent issue. The Immigration Act 2014 introduced the concept of 'right to rent' to the private rented sector. Originally introduced in the West Midlands, 'right to rent' requires landlords and agents check the immigration status of their prospective occupiers at the outset of the tenancy and during if there is a time sensitive visa involved.
This got me thinking about the many other conversations I have with managed and self-managing landlords about the work required during tenancies to remain compliant with 'right to rent', and how little some actually know about this.
One of the most alarming areas of confusion seems to lie within the fact landlords are unaware that they must check all occupants over the age of 18. They are also not aware that during inspections of the property which should be conducted every 6 months, a landlord (or agent if the property is managed) must cross reference the number of visible beds in a property against the number of tenants on a tenancy agreement, any extra occupants should be reported as potential breaches of the immigration act to the home office if they cannot provide proof they are eligible to reside and work in the UK and therefore cannot be added to the tenancy agreement. In addition, many don’t realise that the civil penalties are based upon each illegal migrant being housed.
For example, if a landlord had two tenants named on the agreement, but four occupants over 18 and it transpired they had failed to carry out the relevant right to rent checks – thus leading to illegal migrants being housed, their fine would look like this:
Occupant one – fine of £1,000
Occupant two – fine of £3,000
Occupant three – fine of £3,000
Occupant four – fine of £3,000
Total – £10,000
Landlords that do not use an agent at all, not only have responsibility of conducting the initial checks when taking on the tenancy but also have the responsibility for these follow up checks and having to report their tenants to the Home office if necessary.
So, could you afford a fine of £10,000? Gumtree or self-managing landlords, are you sure you’re carrying out these essential checks and re-checks correctly?
Get in touch for more advice.
Angharad Trueman - Managing Director