You may recall an article we wrote back in May 2013 about the Queens Speech which highlighted the plans to make private landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants before granting a tenancy agreement. One year on and the plans have now been put into action – introducing the Immigration Act 2014.
What is the Immigration Act?
The Immigration Bill received Royal Assent on the 14th May 2014 allowing for a “series of reforms” to the UK immigration system. Its goal – to make it tough on migrants who do not have a right to reside in the UK and make it easier to deport those individuals. The Immigration Act 2014 contains 77 clauses and makes fundamental changes to how our immigration system functions.
How will it affect private landlords?
Private landlords are required to check the immigration status of tenants and prevent ‘non-relevant nationals’ with a ‘limited right to rent’ from accessing private rented housing. Tenants classed as ‘relevant nationals’ are either British citizens, a national of an EEA State other than the United Kingdom, or nationals of Switzerland. Occupiers from other Countries will be required to prove their right to reside in the UK by producing the relevant visa documentation.
It is important to note that landlords will be required to check all prospective occupiers of the property whether named on the agreement or not. Our recommendation is that any person over the age of 18 should be named on the agreement and therefore, should have their immigration status checked.
Landlords are advised that if the proper enquires are not made prior to the start of the tenancy agreement as to the eligibility of the tenants, they may face a fine of up to £3000.
What is unclear at this stage is whether a landlord will be required to check the status of a tenant when the initial fixed term comes to an end and the agreement has become periodic – a similar issue to re-issuing the prescribed deposit information at the end of the fixed term.
When must landlords start checking the tenant’s status?
According to Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire, the Government are already planning its implementation and will ensure these measures are introduced quickly and effectively.
The Migrants Rights Network have also confirmed “that there will be a pilot of landlord immigration checks in one geographical area apparently ‘big enough to allow for a proper evaluation before national roll-out.”
As a matter of course, LettingaProperty.com have introduced measures to ensure that tenants provide landlords with the relevant documentation such as a passport or visa at the property viewing as well as when the referencing processes are under way.
Where can I go for further information?
The Immigration Bill and explanatory notes are available on the Parliament website and for a detailed look into the responsibilities of landlords and agents, see Part 3 (Access to services), Chapter 1 Residential tenancies.