As of December 1st, the West Midlands will host a pilot scheme to determine the “right to rent” of all prospective tenants, based on their British or European citizenship, or leave to remain in the UK if they are here on a visa or similar.
Naturally, we wouldn’t be FleetMilners if we’d waited until the start of the trial to implement everything that comes with it and we have, in fact, been easing our way towards readiness for this since the early summer. So, in essence, no changes will now be felt by you, our clients, because we adapted our methods under cover of darkness half a year ago – we just wanted you all to be aware of some of the measures that estate agents in the area will be required to carry out for the foreseeable future. Notably, if we ever propose some funky lengths of tenancy to you, the explanation is below. Also, just as a bit of an advisory, if you own property elsewhere in the West Midlands and your agent is not implementing the following checks, they are breaking the law. Just something to keep an eye on.
The trial stipulates that, by law, all landlords or their agent will be required to investigate an applicant’s “right to rent” in the UK before granting any tenancy. Tenants will fall into one of three groups and our action will be governed by which group a tenant falls into.
Group 1 is applicants who have “unlimited right to rent”. This category includes British citizens, Swiss nationals and citizens of any country in the European Economic Area (EEA). To check which countries make up the EEA, please click here. “Unlimited right to rent” is also extended to anyone with the right of abode in the UK, anyone who has been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK or anyone that has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
As you can probably guess, these applicants have an unrestricted right to rent in the UK and we proceed as normal.
Group 2 is applicants who have a “time-limited right to rent”. This category includes anyone who is in the country on a time-limited visa or people that are entitled to remain in the UK as a result of an enforceable EU law or any provision made under Section 2 (2) of the European Communities Act 1972. We realise that’s a bit wordy and not everyone knows the ins and outs of the European Communities Act, so an example would be family members of EEA nationals who derive their right to live in the UK from the EEA Immigration Regulations 2006.
These people will be able to obtain documentary evidence of their right to reside in the UK and this is where our processes differ slightly than when we are dealing with applicants from group 1, mainly because we can only grant them tenancy for as long as they have a provable right to rent.
As well as collecting additional supporting documents for our referencing, we are also required to determine whether anyone in group 2 will be using their new property as their main home. A property will be considered their main home if it is the only property they live in or it is where they are settled and live their day-to-day lives, even if they live in multiple properties across the UK.
If they are applying to rent a property which will not be their main home, our next step is to take down full details of the property they do consider to be their main home and document the reasons they believe that the property they are applying for is not their primary residence.
The reason we do this is to ensure that we can conduct the required follow-up checks as efficiently as possible. As these applicants are in the UK on a time-limited basis, the follow-up checks are very important to ensure nothing has changed and will be conducted by FleetMilne during the tenancy.
Please note that if you are one of our Find Tenant Only landlords, we will do the initial checks when granting a tenancy but responsibility for conducting follow up checks will fall to you as the property manager. With this in mind we would strongly recommend getting to know the ins and outs of the legislation fully in order to avoid the risk of prosecution. Just so you’re aware, the punishment for non-compliance is a civil penalty of £3000.
Our third and final group is Group 3. Group 3 is a lot more easily explained as this group is made up of anyone who does not have the right to reside in the UK.
No tenancy can be granted and no further action will be taken. Simple.
If this trial is a success in the West Midlands, there is a very real chance that the measures will be implemented nationwide so the bright side for us is that, by the time these checks become national law, we will already have experience of them and have worked out the best and most efficient way of doing them.