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Landlords Now Required To Check Tenants' Immigration Status

Landlords Now Required To Check Tenants' Immigration Status

From 1 February 2016, anyone letting property in England for money will be prohibited from letting it to a person who does not have a “right to rent” in the UK.

Anyone who breaches this requirement can be fined up to £3,000 for each illegal immigrant in their property and the immigration bill currently in parliament may add criminal penalties, including five-year jail terms, to the current fines. The new legislation also applies to people letting a lodger stay in their own home and even to tenants letting a room in their property. In fact, any occupancy by a person who is living there as their main home is covered by the legislation.

However, recent research by the Residential Landlords Association suggests that as many as 9 out of 10 landlords have received no information at all from the government about the new legislation and that 7 out of 10 landlords do not understand their new obligations.

The only way for landlords to be sure of avoiding penalties is to establish and maintain a “statutory excuse” by checking certain specified original documents and by keeping copies of them. If those documents demonstrate a right to be in the UK for a limited period only, they must be re-checked periodically.

It could be argued that the checking process is complex. A landlord must either see a passport or identity card from a European Economic Area (EEA) country, a passport with a visa showing a right to rent in the UK, an asylum seeker identity card endorsed with a right to rent, or two documents from a list of other options for those who do not have passports. The checks must also take place in the presence of the document holder.

Even seeing a passport can of course be uncertain. There are more than 30 types of UK passport currently in circulation, to say nothing of the passports and ID cards from other EEA countries. Landlords will need to be able to pick the valid ones from the forgeries.

Where a landlord is not able to confirm a tenant’s status on a re-check then they must report that person to the Home Office. It is currently unclear what action the Home Office will take once a landlord has reported somebody; it is not known at this stage whether the tenant will be removed from the property, or whether the landlord must continue to let to them reside there knowing that at some stage they will be removed and deported, leaving an empty property behind them.

These new requirements only apply to new tenants but checks will be required when renewing a tenancy with an existing tenant.

For further information about this or any other aspect of residential landlord and tenant law please contact Kelly Henderson on 01325 466461 or Email kelly.henderson@close-thornton.co.uk

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