On 12th May 2016 the Immigration Act was passed, and its measures will come into force in the next few months.
What does the act include, and how will it affect the UK’s landlords?
A quick guide to the UK’s Immigration Act 2016
What is the Immigration Act?
The Immigration Act is a new law designed to “further crack down on illegal migration” by making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to work, rent property and receive support in the UK.
It introduces new sanctions on illegal workers and those who employ them, makes the enforcement of immigration laws easier, and introduces new measures to stop illegal migrants getting driving licences or opening bank accounts.
It also puts even more pressure on landlords to make sure tenants have the right to rent, and increases the penalties for those who fail to do so.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said “if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.”
But the Migrants’ Rights Network, an NGO that campaigns to support migrants, argued that this is “a piece of legislation that sets out to deliberately harm some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Immigration legislation and landlords
Landlords are already required to check the immigration status of their tenants under 2014 right to rent rules, which came into force across the country earlier this year. This new act doesn’t change these responsibilities, but it does increase the penalties you can face if you don’t toe the line.
Previously, the maximum punishment was a £3,000 fine per tenant, but it’s now an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison.
However, the toughest punishments are intended only for “unscrupulous landlords and agents” who repeatedly fail to follow the rules, according to James Brokenshire, who has acknowledged that most landlords are responsible. The government has said that they expect the “vast majority of landlords” who fail to make proper checks will face only a fine.
Recap of the right to rent rules
Under the 2014 Immigration Act, private landlords and letting agents are required to check the documents of tenants and prospective tenants to make sure they have the right to live in the UK.
As a landlord you need to check the documents of all of your tenants (it’s against the law to only check those you suspect of being here illegally) and make copies.
A document like a passport or a residence permit is needed to prove your tenants are allowed to live here, and you should check that the documents they provide look genuine. There’s more guidance about right to rent checks on the government’s website.
Illegal migrant eviction made easier
As well as increasing the penalties for landlords who fail to obey the law, the 2016 Immigration Act also makes it easier for landlords to evict illegal migrant tenants, sometimes without a court order.
Once the Home Office has confirmed that a tenant is not allowed to rent in the UK, the landlord is expected to take steps to get them out of the property.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) generally approves of the legislation, but has stated that greater guidance is needed on what happens after a failed right to rent check, or a notice from the Home Office, particularly if the tenant refuses to leave. ARLA has expressed concern that without guidance, “discrimination against non-UK or non-EU citizens could increase.”
What do you think about the new penalties, and how have you been dealing with the roll out of the right to rent rules? Tell us in the comments.