As a landlord do you know what tenant checks you should and must carry out?
Before you rent your property to a tenant there are certain legal requirements that you have to comply with. And if you rent your property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in England you can be fined or even sent to prison.
Who and what you have to check in law
You must check that all tenants over 18 can legally rent any residential property in England. And that means everyone, whether or not you have a written tenancy. It’s also against the law to only check people you think aren’t British citizens.
There are limited exceptions which include mobile homes, local authority accommodation, tied accommodation, 7 year + leases and student accommodation but as a private landlord, they are unlikely to apply to you.
If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, you need to do the check in the 28 day period before the start of the tenancy.
How to do a check
Check which adults will use your property as their main home (your ‘tenants’). You will need to see the original documents that prove they are permitted to live in the UK and have a right to rent.
To the best of your ability, check each document is genuine, record the date you checked and keep copies. If you need more information about what documents this may include visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/573057/6_1193_HO_NH_Right-to-Rent-Guidance.pdf
Don’t forget to check the details, rather than taking a swift glance. You need to look at photos, dates of birth, names and what condition the documents are in. Look out for inconsistencies…like dates of birth which are clearly wrong, or different names!
Also make sure you take copies of the whole document, and that means every side or page. Keep the copies for the duration of the tenancy and for one year after. But make sure you comply with any relevant data protection law.
Whether or not your property is your tenant’s main home will depend on things like how often they live there, whether they are registered with a doctor or to vote at that address.
If the tenant doesn’t have the right documents, you must use the landlord’s checking service to check whether the tenant is allowed to rent without the right documents and you’ll find that here: https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/lcs-application.ofml
You should get an answer within 2 working days.
You must also do a follow-up check to make sure your tenant can still rent property in the UK if there’s a time limit on their permission to stay. If you don’t, and your tenant’s permission to stay expires, you can be fined.
Do the follow-up check just before the date that’s the later of:
- the end of your tenant’s permission to stay in the UK
- 12 months after your previous check.
You don’t have to do a follow-up check if there’s no time limit on your tenant’s permission to stay in the UK.
You must tell the Home Office if you find out that your tenant can no longer legally rent property in England after doing a follow-up check.
If a tenant sub-lets the property without you knowing, they’re responsible for carrying out checks on any sub-tenants.
Good practice tenant vetting
Apart from the legal requirements, there are also some essential checks that need to be carried out to ensure you don’t end up with a tenant who doesn’t pay, damages the property or worse. And this vetting process needs to be rigorous – just speaking to a previous landlord and or employer is not enough anymore.
The information you will need to check or collect will include
- payslips and bank statements (covering at least 3 months),
- credit checks,
- secure accountant references,
- whether the tenant has any county court judgements (CCJs) against them,
- whether they can provide a guarantor who will cover their rent if they default.
The social touch
Other checks you can carry out include checking social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, personal websites or just doing a Google search and see if anything comes up.
At EweMove, we visit potential tenants in their current homes when vetting and we ask lots of questions about their work, why they’re moving etc.
The success of your vetting and checks is in the detail. Look for inaccuracies or things that don’t quite add up. There are of course professional agents who can handle all this for you and if you’d like more information please get in touch.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.