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Private landlords will soon come into the front line of immigration policy because from 1 February 2016 they will need to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before granting a tenancy.
A pilot has been running in the West Midlands since early 2015 and it will extend nationwide from 1 February next year.
The rules apply to landlords and their agents who let private rented accommodation to a person as their only or main home. A landlord should not let to anyone who is not a “relevant national” or who does not have a “right to rent”. Relevant nationals are British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals. They must produce evidence that they fall within that category.
A person has a right to rent if he/she has leave to enter or remain in the UK. The website GOV.UK has a ‘right to rent’ tool which landlords may use to check.
The rules apply to tenancies, leases of less than seven years, licences, sub-tenancies or sub-licences, of private rented accommodation. Strictly, even lodgers with a licence will be caught.
Landlords will need to see a passport, national identity card, residence card, certificate of registration or naturalisation. A list of suitable documents is in the code of practice at GOV.UK at www.gov.uk. The landlord must keep copies of the documents for as long as the tenancy subsists and for a year afterwards. Failure to abide by the rules can have serious consequences; a civil penalty of up to £3,000 can be levied for each adult resident in the property who is not a relevant national or has no right to rent.