Letting agents or landlords who will be legally obliged to conduct Right to Rent checks on tenants from February 1 actually have to start the process as early as January 3.
Lisa Simon, head of lettings at Carter Jonas - and a long-term critic of the way the government has introduced the initiative - says status checks on every occupier aged 18 or over must be completed for all English tenancies starting on or after 1 February 2016.
The same requirements also apply to lodgers living with a family and some holiday lettings.
“In effect, the date from which a landlord or letting agent has to begin checks is January 3, 2016. This is the start of the 28 day period leading up to February 1, as all checks must be completed in the 28 day period before the tenancy comes into effect” she warns.
Under the new rules, the landlord or letting agent must meet and carry out immigration checks on every adult occupant of the property, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement.
Such records should be kept for the duration of the tenancy and for at least one year afterwards. Landlords and agents must store this information in a manner that complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Legislation changes do not apply to existing occupiers who moved in before the start date. Holiday lets are also exempt, except where the letting is for three months or more, or where a fixed letting term is then extended.
The act makes it a civil offence, carrying a penalty of up to £3,000, to let premises to someone (either the tenant or any adult occupying the property with them) who the landlord knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, does not have the Right to Rent.
Additionally, once passed into law, the Immigration Bill 2015 creates a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for landlords who have breached the legislation.
The government’s code of practice advises that documents should be requested from all potential applicants to ensure due diligence and avoid any indirect discrimination. Property owners affected by the changes can find more information via the gov.uk website.