New legislation is set to bring extra legal responsibilities for landlords, as the Home Office explains.
As part of the Immigration Act 2014, the Government is making it a requirement for landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. This means that you’ll now need to vet new tenants right to live in the UK, so as to ensure you don’t let to anyone who is in the UK illegally.
As this is a new piece of legislation, it’s possible you might have missed it. Here’s a brief overview to help you get prepared.
Firstly, when does ‘right to rent’ come into force?
The legislation will be phased in from the 1st December onwards with only those letting in the Local Authority areas of Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton required to comply initially.
The new measures will then be evaluated and decisions made in 2015 about how and when to roll the scheme out nationally.
How can you check immigration status?
In most cases, landlords or letting agents will be able to complete the checks without contacting the Home Office.
All you’ll need to do is simply request and copy original documents - such as a passport - which show that the individual has the right to rent in the UK. For the majority of migrants who are here lawfully, the checks are equally simple and can be satisfied, for example, with a biometric residence permit. Where a potential tenant has an outstanding immigration application, landlords can use a free checking service, which will be provided by the Home Office.
Do you need to check existing tenants?
No. The checks will only apply to new tenancies from the date of implementation, so there is no requirement to check existing tenants and occupants. Checks will need to be made on all adults aged 18 or over who are using the property as their only or main residence.
What happens if you don’t check?
This new legislation will include a civil penalty scheme, built to penalise rogue landlords who rent to illegal migrants and often exploit vulnerable individuals. A sliding scale of penalties up to £3,000 will mean heavier fines for those who persistently rent to illegal migrants, and those who rent to multiple individuals.
Landlords will be able to transfer liability for these checks to an agent, provided that the transfer is recorded in writing. Landlords and their agents will not be expected to be immigration or forgery experts and they will not be penalised if they are misled by a skilful forgery, provided they record that they have performed the necessary checks.
Ultimately the purpose behind the penalty scheme is to crack down on the rogue landlords out there, not to penalise reputable landlords.
This article was contributed by the Home Office. For more information on how to carry out the checks and to sign up for regular updates about the scheme, please visit Gov.uk. The Home Office is also providing a telephone helpline to help landlords and tenants understand how these measures apply to them and how to carry out the right to rent checks. You can use this service by calling 0300 069 9799.