Property Owners: Know Your Tenant! New Guidance from 1 December 2016

We are in the age of Generation Rent. These days, the average millennial does not buy a house until they are aged 33. It is no surprise that the volume of properties churning through the UK rental market is at an unprecedented high.  

With the market booming, high demand and the frantic tenant turnover, letting agents and private landlords have their hands full. The letting system is open to abuse, for example by tenants who are disqualified as a result of their immigration status. It is the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the tenants are fully compliant.

Under the current system it is a criminal offence to let a property to an individual who has disqualified immigration status. If a landlord lets this slip and is charged with an offence, a defence is available where they can prove that they have taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy agreement within a reasonable time.

However, major improvements are imminent. From 1 December 2016, new statutory guidance provides greater clarity on how a landlord can protect itself and sets out, for the first time, a standard form of termination notice you can use.

Under the new notice, a landlord will be able to evict occupiers of a property where they are disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status. The notice is enforceable against such tenants as if it were an order of the High Court.

The new guidance is welcomed as a significant advance. However, the best defence is to ensure you carry out thorough checks before letting your property. We've put together the following checklist of what a landlord needs to be aware of at the pre-let stage:

  • Check that the tenant has all the necessary documents to prove their immigration status
  • Verify the documents in the presence of the tenant, to ensure that they are genuine make thorough enquiries of the tenant about who else will be staying at the property
  • Establish whether the tenant has a 'continuous' or 'time-limited' right to rent
  • Take copies of all relevant documents and retain them but when doing so make sure you act in line with the Data Protection Act 1998
  • Make the Home Office aware as soon as possible if the tenant has a change in circumstances¬†
  • Make sure you repeat the checks when the tenant's right to rent expires and when you enter a new tenancy agreement

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