The accidental landlord
TWELVE months after the Government made landlords responsible for verifying that their tenants have a legal right to live in the UK, I must admit that while it’s a bit of a faff, the rules aren’t quite as draconian as I first feared.
For instance, I suddenly remembered while dishing out roast potatoes on Sunday that the student visa of one of my tenants from South Korea, who moved into my flat six months ago, was due to expire, and I ought to check asap that she’d got an extension. Otherwise I could be punished with a £3,000 fine for accidentally breaking the law by letting the flat to an illegal immigrant. Or so I’d been led to believe.
The tenant confessed she hadn’t yet received confirmation that her visa would be renewed. She said she was confident she would get an extension, but this might not come through for another few weeks, which left me caught between a rock and a hard place.
I didn’t want to turf her out of the flat and suffer the hassle of re-letting her room. But neither did I want to risk letting to someone without a valid resident’s permit.
After stressing overnight, I called the Government’s Right to Rent Landlord Helpline (0300 069 9799) to find out what would happen if I let her remain living in the flat once her visa had expired.
The chap on the phone told me that as long as I had checked that the tenant had a right to live in the UK before the tenancy began, and as long as her paperwork was in order at that point, I had a 12-month exemption from any prosecution.
He was quite clear that the 12month exemption applied even if her visa expired during her tenancy and her application for an extension was refused. “100 per cent?” I asked. “100 per cent,” he told me. So, I was off the hook, and my tenant could