What could “Right to Rent” mean for Scotland?

right to rent

IMMIGRATION CHECKS DO NOT YET APPLY TO LANDLORDS IN SCOTLAND!  We previously blogged about the UK Immigration bill which proposed duties on landlords to carry out immigration checks on prospective tenants – essentially checking if someone has the right to rent.

The bill became law on 1st December 2014 in connection with premises located in specific local authorities in England.  On 1st February 2016, the scheme was rolled out to the whole of England.

The UK Government now intends to roll out this scheme UK wide although a date for this has yet to be determined.

What is the Right to Rent?

The provisions disqualify certain persons, as a result of their immigration status, from occupying premises under a residential tenancy agreement.  Section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014 provides that a person is disqualified if the person is (a) not a relevant national, and (b) does not have a right to rent in relation to the premises.

Someone does not have a “right to rent” if they require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but do not have this, or if their leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom is subject to a condition preventing them from occupying the premises.

What does Right to Rent mean for landlords in Scotland?

Landlords in Scotland (or their agents) will require to check the immigration status of prospective tenants and take action against an existing tenant if their immigration status changes.

Landlords will be required to:

  1. Ask prospective tenants to produce identification from a checklist of specified documents
  2. Check the documentary evidence and keep a copy of it for their records
  3. Not lease the property to a tenant who cannot produce satisfactory evidence of their right to reside

What are the consequences for landlords should they let to a tenant who does not have a Right to Rent?

If a landlord (or his/her agent) contravenes the provisions, the landlord could be forced to pay a penalty up to an amount not exceeding £3,000 or face a prison sentence of up to five years.

Who does this apply to?

The scheme applies to anyone who grants a right of occupation of premises for residential use which provide for payment of rent (whether or not the rent is a market rent).  This means that private landlords and registered social landlords alike will be required to carry out these checks should the scheme be rolled out to Scotland.

What will landlords require to do to comply?

On 1st February 2016 the Home Office published a code of practice outlining the steps a landlord should take in undertaking the initial rent checks and providing a list of documents which landlords can request to satisfy themselves that a prospective tenant has a “right to rent”.

The provisions have not yet been implemented in Scotland. Therefore, what lies ahead remains unclear.  However, what is entirely clear is that the Scottish housing sector is undergoing significant changes, particularly in relation to the private rented sector with the introduction of the new private residential tenancy in or around December 2017, the letting agent code of practice and the transfer of power to the First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber). This proposed further layer of change will add to the difficulties faced by private rented sector landlords in the coming months.

Should you have any further queries regarding matters contained within this blog, please contact a member of our LetLaw team who will be happy to discuss.

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