Immigration Checks

The recent Immigration Act 2014 will have significant repercussions for landlords and letting agents. The new provisions will require landlords (and by implication, agents) to carry out immigration checks on all tenancies starting after the introduction date. A limited rollout across five areas in the Midlands (Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton) began on 1st December 2014 and a full roll out in England on 1st February 2016.

The Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 12th May 2016 and the provisions relating to immigration right to rent came into effect on 1st December 2016 which make amendments to the Immigration Act 2014.  A new ground 7B has been introduced together with an amended section 8 notice (to be used where the landlord has received a notice from the Secretary of State that one or more of the occupiers are disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status) and a new prescribed section 33(D)(3) notice (to be used where the landlord has received a notice from the Secretary of State that all of the occupiers are disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status).  See Letting Factsheet 34 for more information.

What action is required?

The rules require landlords to check the immigration status of all new occupiers. The rules will affect you if you are:

  • Renting out accommodation for people to live anywhere in England (including taking in a lodger)
  • A letting agent who provides a service for landlords by finding people to live in rented property
  • A hotel or guest house, or provider of similar accommodation and you take in guests who stay for
    three months or more.

Responsibility for completing the checking process will primarily lie with the landlord unless this responsibility has been transferred to a letting agent –which must be agreed in writing. Agents will be allowed to make additional charges to carry out the checks but this also needs to be agreed in the agency terms. The Letting Centre has drafted appropriate clauses and these were included in our revised agency agreement for distribution with the 2015 updates.

Right to Rent Authorisation

In future, all private landlords and letting agents will be required to make simple checks on the migration status of new tenants in order to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live in the UK. Before renting accommodation, landlords will ask prospective tenants to produce evidence (from a checklist of documents) of their permission to be in the UK. Landlords and agents will check this evidence and keep a copy for their records. The exact nature of these checks is detailed in Government guidance (listed below).

When a prospective tenant cannot provide the landlord with any of the documents required under the checks, then the landlord must request verification of a ‘right to rent’ from the Home Office’s Landlords Checking Service using an online form. Where a landlord does not have access to the internet, a request can be made by telephone. The Landlords Checking Service will respond to the landlord with a clear “yes” or “no” response within 2 working days.

Penalties

Where a landlord has authorised an adult to occupy a property without a legal ‘right to rent’, he may be subject to a penalty, imprisonment or both for any breach under the Act – so it is something that agents will be advised to get familiar with in plenty of time.

Guidance

The following detailed guidance is currently available on the main government website – click here:

  • Code of Practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation
  • Code of Practice for Landlords - Avoiding unlawful discrimination when conducting ‘right to rent’
    checks in the private rented residential sector
  • Right to rent information leaflet

Further guidance is available in the Letting Centre Factsheet No. 34 – Landlord’s Responsibilities under the Immigration Act.