Expat landlords and ‘Right to Rent’ : Things you need to know

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if you are buying a property for the sole purpose of renting it out while you move abroad and you also own a family home, from April 2016 you will be subject to an additional 3% stamp duty charge on the purchase price.

But that’s not all. There are other issues that landlords are legally responsible for including undertaking a gas safety check every year, ensuring the deposit is kept in a legally recognised scheme and providing an energy performance certificate (EPC) when a new tenant moves into the property.

A letting agent can ensure all of these tasks are carried out effectively and that the tenancy runs as smoothly as possible.

Before you think your legal obligations ends here, we should mention the issue of ‘Right to Rent’.

A survey by the National Landlords’ Association recently also revealed that 62% of ‘accidental landlords’ had not heard of it either.

Essentially, the ‘Right to Rent’ law puts an obligation on landlords in England to ensure that their property is rented to someone who has the right to live in the UK.

The aim is to crack down on landlords providing homes for illegal immigrants.

A landlord must now check valid documentation of all new potential tenants against a set list. You can get the checklist and other information from this government site.

If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, you need to do the check in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

You don’t need to check tenants in these types of accommodation:

  • social housing
  • a care home, hospice or hospital
  • a hostel or refuge
  • a mobile home
  • student accommodation

You also don’t need to check tenants if they live in accommodation that:

  • is provided by a local authority
  • is provided as part of their job (known as ‘tied accommodation’)
  • has a lease that’s 7 years or longer

The ‘Right to Rent’ issue is particularly challenging if you are living thousands of miles away and cannot get home to go through the checklist yourself.

Regardless of who does the check, it is the landlord who faces a hefty fine for non-compliance – and this increases with subsequent failures and the possibility of being imprisoned.

Strict legislation must be followed, so having a letting agent do these tasks on a landlord’s behalf – even when they are charging between 12% to 15% for their services – will seem like money well spent to avoid falling into legal problems.