Yes. Legally, you have to. There is a law called the ‘Right to Rent Act’, which was introduced by the Immigration Act of 2014. This law stipulates that landlords have to check the ‘right to rent‘ of their potential tenants, lodgers included. The ‘right to rent‘ of a tenant could be either ‘unlimited’, ‘limited’ or ‘no right to rent‘. This check has to be carried out 28 days before the start of the tenancy.
Therefore, failure to check the ‘right to rent‘ of a potential tenant is a violation of law, on the part of the landlord. Such a landlord is then liable for punishment, which could be a fine of up to £3,000 or possibly a prison sentence.
Landlords are to carry out this check by looking at the immigration status of their lodgers, that is, asking them to provide documents that demonstrate their permission to live and rent property in the UK, and how long for. These documents include an international passport, work visa, certificate of entitlement, and Biometric Residence Permit.
The landlord should, first of all, certify that these documents are original. Copies of them should then be made. When making the copies, care should be taken to capture all necessary parts. For instance, when copying a passport, details such as nationality, date of birth, photograph, and expiry date must not be missed for any reason. Landlords must also keep a record of the documents and note the date of doing so.
In a case where the lodger has a limited right to stay, a follow-up check will be necessary. This check should be carried out either at the end of the lodger’s permission to stay in the UK, or 12 months after the initial check. If the follow up check reveals that the tenant has no more right to stay, the landlord is duty bound to report this to the Home Office. Failure to carry out the follow-up check, or report it to the Home Office, where necessary, can be cause for a penalty for the landlord. However, the follow-up check won’t be necessary if the tenant‘s right is unlimited.
Some people are exempted from this check. These include: (1) people with a ‘time-limited right to rent‘, or with limited leave to remain in the UK (2) people with indefinite leave to remain or right of abode in the UK (3.) people with ‘discretionary right to rent‘ – which is granted by the Home Office – and (4) citizens of the UK, the European Economic Area, and of Switzerland. In the case of the last category, the landlord has to ascertain that the potential lodger truly belongs to one of these groups.
Those who claim to have on-going application with the Home Office, that their documents are with the Home Office, or that the Home Office permits then to rent, may be excused. But, the landlord has to confirm this with the Home Office.
A landlord can choose to do the check or hire a renting agent to do it for them. Whichever they choose, the responsibility lies with the landlord in the case of any infringement.
While carrying out the check, landlords should take caution not to breach other laws like the Discrimination Law and Data Protection Law.