The Immigration Act imposes new obligations on landlords and in some circumstances, agents, to check that the person they are letting a property to is entitled to be in the UK. A failure to comply can result in the landlord or agent being responsible for a fine of up to £3,000.
The Government has just announced that following on from the pilot scheme in the West Midlands, it will from 1 February 2016 require all landlords to check the immigration status of all tenants.
Under the scheme a landlord or agent must ascertain whether a prospective tenant or occupier has the right to occupy the premises before granting a tenancy. In addition there is a more onerous obligation to make sure that right does not lapse. To comply a landlord should obtain, verify and retain a copy of prescribed documents. If a landlord or agent is unable to obtain prescribed documents it should apply for a Positive Right to Rent Notice from the Landlord Checking Service.
There are two lists attached to the Schedule to The Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) Order 2014. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2874/pdfs/uksi_20142874_en.pdf which set out the documents which should be obtained. It requires either one item from List A or two items from List B.
Landlords should be aware that the rules not only apply when it grants a new residential tenancy but also where there is a variation to the current tenancy which results in new occupiers taking occupation. The time for compliance is 28 days before the tenancy agreement is entered into. It is important that a landlord or agent keeps copies of the prescribed documents as it will need to provide these to the Secretary of State upon request failing which it may be ordered to pay a fine of up to £3000.
This does appear to be an attempt to place responsibility with residential landlords for immigration checks which should be dealt with by the Border Control. It is likely that nearly all landlords and agents will already obtain identity documents for potential tenants however, this is takes it one stage further in requiring a landlord to ensure a tenant has the right to live in the UK. Landlords may wish to read the Home Office’s publication “A Short Guide for Landlords on Right to Rent”.
Karen Bright, Head of Dispute Resolution.