Property solicitors at one of London’s leading mid-tier law firms Mackrell Turner Garrett are reminding landlords and property agents of their obligations in regards to the ‘right to rent’ checks launched by the Government last year.

Introduced under a pilot in the West Midlands in 2014, the ‘right to rent’ legislation was later extended across the whole of England in 2016, with further plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland proposed in the 2016 Immigration Act.

The brainchild of former Home Secretary and now Prime Minister, Theresa May, the regulations require landlords to check the immigration status of tenants over the age of 18 to whom they wished to rent their property or who may live in a property they are renting out, either by checking visas and passports or contacting the Home Office if these documents can’t be provided.

Despite criticism and some recent evidence from the Residential Landlords Association and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which showed found that 51 per cent of landlords surveyed thought the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals, the onerous legislation remains in place.

Nick Davies, Head of Mackrell Turner Garrett’s Property team, said: “While this new legislation is fairly burdensome for landlords and estate agents it is critical that they comply with what it requires.

“This should not really act as a barrier to renting homes to overseas visitors and immigrants if conducted properly and those unsure of their requirement under the law should seek help.”

Penalties for failing to meet the checks include fines ranging from £80 to £3,000 for first time offenders, up to £3,000 for each tenant who has not had a check carried out, where the landlord has previously been fined for not conducting the proper checks.

“It is important to remember that if you do receive a civil penalty notice from the Home Office you do have 28 days to respond in writing where you must state your statutory excuse,” said Nick. “It is then down to the Government to decide how to pursue the notice either by decreasing the fine, maintaining it or cancelling it.

“However, it is important to note that they can also increase the fine if they conduct additional investigations and find the breach is more serious.”

Of course, adds Nick, the defence doesn’t stop there as landlords do have the right to appeal within 28 days of the date by which the Home Office should have replied to the original letter.

Nick said: “A landlord may object on the following grounds if they are not liable to pay the penalty, as they are not the landlord or person responsible for the property, they conducted the prescribed document checks and made all necessary reports or they feel the financial penalty is too high.”

“Whatever the case may be, it is essential that those who receive a notice from the Home Office for being in breach of the ‘right to rent’ rules seek professional advice from a specialist solicitor.”