Buy-to-let landlords must check tenants

There are already laws in place – under “Right to Rent” regulations – which mean that all landlords or letting agents where applicable must check their tenants’ right to rent property in the UK. This involves checking passports and any relevant original documentation prior to a tenant moving in.

When the points-based system comes in, the same rules are expected to apply, meaning the onus is on the landlord or letting agent to ensure their tenants are eligible to reside in the UK. At present, failure to do so can lead to an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence.

Currently, despite the EUSS being in operation, it is illegal to ask EU, EEA or Swiss citizens to show that they have settled status or pre-settled status when starting a new tenancy. It will also not be necessary to make retrospective checks for existing tenants from 2021, although there is no current guidance for what landlords will need to do after this date for new tenants.

However, the Royal Landlords Association (RLA) is now urging landlords to have a conversation with their tenants about the EUSS rules, to ensure they are aware of what they might need to do.

What landlords need to do

Discrimination against tenants based on race is illegal, and it is important for landlords to be aware that whether or not they believe the tenant is from overseas, the same eligibility checks still apply. The Right to Rent  scheme has come under extensive criticism for promoting discrimination based on nationality, as landlords have perceived that avoiding letting to non-UK citizens will reduce their risk of getting it wrong.

If you operate through a letting agent or managing agent, you should find out if these checks are carried out by them as part of their service. If you self-manage, it is vital to keep up to date with any immigration changes as they happen that could affect you or your tenants, and get professional advice where necessary.

If you’re a landlord for student accommodation, the current advice is that students will be assessed under the same points-based immigration system, but under slightly different characteristics. They will need to prove they have an offer from an approved university or college, can speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK.