Right to Rent rules leave landlords scratching their heads

Landlords in Swindon are still confused about new rules demanding they vet tenants, says screening agency Tenant Screening.

The Right to Rent rules were introduced nationally in February, following a pilot project run in the Midlands. They require landlords to make checks on prospective tenants to ensure they have a right to rent in the UK, and are part of the Government’s clampdown on illegal immigrants.

Landlords need to ensure the tenant’s passport or biometric resident’s permit is genuine. Failing to carry out this check can incur hefty fines for the landlord or lettings agencies which are managing tenancies.

But according to Swindon-based Tenant Screening, which provides a vetting service to landlords and letting agents across the country, many landlords are confused about what they need to do, with some still unaware of the Right to Rent rules.

“There is a lot of uncertainty among landlords which is having an impact on whether the Right to Rent checks are being carried out effectively, or at all,” said Kelvin McCarthy, Screening Manager at Tenant Screening. “But the consequences of not complying can be a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant found to be living illegally.”

Kelvin said some landlords think they only need to check tenants who they believe have come from abroad. “However, this is discriminatory, and every adult tenant who has moved into a property since February, when the rules came in, should have been checked. It isn’t necessary to check tenants who were already living in properties before February.”

Landlords are also failing to make checks on adult children, aged 18 or over, assuming they need only investigate the parents.

Others assume the responsibility lies with lettings agencies, but this is only the case if the agency is managing a tenancy; if they are providing merely a tenant finding service, the onus remains with the landlord.

Kelvin said: “There is also confusion about when the checks need to be made. Originally, they had to be done within 28 days of a tenant moving in; now, they should be carried out at least 28 days before occupancy.”

Tenant Screening offers landlords and letting agents across the UK a screening service for potential tenants. Kelvin and his team can make a number of checks on would-be tenants ranging from credit checks, residency and ID verification, to employment and landlord referencing, as well as identifying court or insolvency information held against the prospective tenant.

Kelvin says it is vital to check out potential tenants before handing them the keys to a property, and the Right to Rent scheme along with comprehensive screening will give landlords further peace of mind when housing a tenant.

Tenant Screening has created a useful help guide designed to answer common questions landlords have regarding the Right to Rent scheme; the guide also includes details on which documents can be accepted along with a list of useful additional resources. The guide can be downloaded by visiting www.tenantscreening.co.uk.