The Immigration Act 2014 creates a new requirement for private landlords prohibiting them from letting property to persons who are disqualified by reason of their immigration status. They should ensure a prospective tenant has the right to rent by checking the immigration status of prospective tenants and occupants to ensure they have the right to rent in the UK. This requirement will be phased in, and to begin with will only be implemented in the West Midlands, to allow an evaluation to be made before a national roll-out.
The Government has announced today that the first phase of the landlords' provisions in the Immigration Act will be implemented in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton (but will not apply to Solihull or Coventry). The first phase of the provisions will come into force from 1st December 2014.
- These checks will only apply to new tenancies from the date of implementation, so there is no requirement to check the immigration status of existing tenants or occupants.
- Checks will need to be made on all adults aged 18 or over who will use the property as their only or main residence.
- The checks will be quick and straight forward to carry out and in most cases Landlords will already be checking these documents to establish a potential occupant's identity.
In most cases, landlords or their agents will be able to complete the checks without contacting the Home Office, by simply requesting and copying documents, which shows that a prospective occupant has a right to live legally in the UK and therefore the right to rent. A British or EEA national can satisfy the check by showing a passport, or a combination of other documents such as birth certificates or driving licences. For the majority of migrants who are here lawfully, the checks are equally simple and can be satisfied with a biometric residence permit. Landlords or rental agencies will need to retain copies of these documents as evidence that the check has been carried out.
The checks have been developed following close engagement with bodies representing landlords, lettings agents and housing charities and largely reflect the existing practices in this sector.
Online information and a telephone helpline has gone live today (0300 069 9799) to help landlords and tenants understand how these measures apply to them and which explain how to carry out the checks.
There are a number of exemptions from these new requirements, namely;
- any accommodation provided by a local authority or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive where they are under a statutory duty to do so (including where the tenant is placed into the private rented sector);
- hostels and refuges;
- tied accommodation provided by an employer for an employee; and
- halls of residence for students or in instances where a higher educational institute has nominated a student for accommodation.
In some limited circumstances, such as cases where a prospective occupant has submitted all of their papers to the Home Office to make an application or appeal, landlords or their agents can request that Home Office conduct a right to rent check by completing a form online (or by telephone for assisted digital). Landlords will receive a clear yes or no response within 2 working days (48 hours). Asylum seekers who are awaiting a final determination, or those who face a recognised barrier to leaving the UK, may also be afforded a discretionary right to rent.
This forms part of a civil penalty scheme which will allow us to take action against rogue landlords who, by failing to undertake the checks inadvertently or knowingly rent to illegal migrants and often exploit vulnerable individuals. A sliding scale of penalties will mean heavier fines for those who persistently fail to carry out the right to rent checks, and those who rent to multiple illegal migrants.
However, 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. The purpose of the scheme is to crack down on the rogue landlords, not to penalise reputable landlords.