Landlords to Make Immigration Checks On Their Tenants

Back in November, you may recall an announcement that government were planning to make changes to tackle illegal immigration in the UK. This scheme has now been enforced across the country and as of the 1st of February 2016, landlords will have to start checking passports and visas of new tenants.

The new legislation states that anyone that lets property for money in the UK will be prohibited from allowing a person who does not have a ‘right to rent’ within the country.

Anyone who breaches the new requirement will face a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant, when any person is found not to be living in Britain legally. The legislation, which came in under the Immigration Act 2014, is now being implemented after a six-month pilot in the West Midlands region.

The move has already sparked controversy, with criticism being immediately vocalized by the Landlords’ association. Dr David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords’ Association, said ‘By seeking to turn landlords into border police, the Government is undermining the trust between tenants and landlords that is essential to the sector’s smooth running.’ The RLA go on to discuss that genuine tenants – who don’t have UK passports – may face discrimination as a result of the change as they will be seen as a great risk and financial burden.

The Home Office have outlined a list of documents that are valid for any ‘right to rent’ check.

Immigrants over the age of 18 will be checked to ensure that they are legally allowed in the country as well as being allowed to rent a property. Passports and EEA identity cards must be shown when possible, with other forms of identity such as driving licenses or professional references needing to be produced as alternatives.

All documentation must be checked whilst both the tenant and landlord are present with relevant pages of important information needing to be copied. Checks will be conducted on any new tenant within 28 days of the start of the tenancy agreement. If any documents expire before the end of the tenancy, it will need to be renewed before any agreements can be made.

The Home Office have also stated that penalties will be given if an illegal immigrant is found occupying a property. These penalties will apply to tenants as well as landlords so it is expected that landlords will be strict and insistent with their checks.

There is also a new bill currently passing through Parliament, that proposes jails sentences for any failed or missed checks, which only further highlights the importance of immigrants needing to have their UK visas and documentation officially in place.