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Right to Rent: What letting agents need to know?

15 July 2015 4023 Views
Right to Rent: What letting agents need to know?

Few subjects have generated as much discussion among the private rented sector in recent months as the government's Right to Rent rules.

Currently being trialled in the West Midlands, the scheme will make landlords, and consequently letting agents, responsible for carrying out immigration checks on potential tenants. The government has yet to reveal when Right to Rent will be rolled out nationwide, but it has recently been suggested the regulation could come into force as early as this autumn.

So, what exactly do letting agents need to know before Right to Rent becomes law?

The basics

Once the regulation comes into force, landlords will be legally obliged to check the immigration status of any new tenants moving into their properties. The checks will only need to be carried out on existing renters when their tenancy agreement is due for renewal.

In most cases, the process will involve the potential tenant simply showing their passport or biometric residence permit and a permanent copy of this being made. Should a landlord be discovered to have rented to someone with no legal right to live in the UK, they will face a fine of £1,000 per illegal tenant, with this rising to £3,000 if the individual in question has previously been in breach of the regulation within the past three years. Full details of the Right to Rent scheme can be found here.

What does it mean for you?

What does all of this mean for letting agents? Many landlords will naturally turn to agencies to shoulder the burden of carrying out immigration checks. In this situation, a written agreement must be signed in which the agent accepts responsibility for ensuring tenants have a right to live in the UK and liability in the event of non-compliance.

To ensure immigration checks are being carried out effectively, it is vital that your agency develops a thorough understanding of the Right to Rent scheme and provides all staff with the necessary training. Passport and other immigration document checks need to be added to the tenant referencing process as standard, with no exceptions made.

Another thing to consider is the threat of discrimination. Concerns have been raised that letting agents will choose not to rent to foreign tenants whatsoever to avoid the risk of taking on an illegal immigrant and receiving the subsequent fine.

From both an ethical and business perspective, it is important that agencies ensure their staff do not adopt this approach. Turning away a foreign renter who has a legal right to live in the UK could lead to a discrimination case being brought against the company, which has the potential to be severely damaging both financially and in terms of the business' reputation.

Keeping on top of things

With the private rented sector continuing to grow, the Right to Rent scheme is just another example of the increasing workload letting agents are faced with.

Keeping on top this becomes much easier when you have the right tools for the job. Specialist letting agent software, which is designed with the everyday needs of a modern agency in mind, allows you to take increased demand in your stride and be better prepared for Right to Rent and any other new regulations the government may throw your way. Contact Rentman to learn more.

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