The Immigration Act 2014 comes into force on 1st February and this is big news for landlords as this requires both landlords and their agents to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants before any tenancy agreement is entered into.
The new rules apply to all residential tenancies and there are only limited exceptions for social housing, mobile homes, holiday lets and university residential accommodation. There are penalties for non compliance and the maximum fine that can be imposed is £3000 but this applies to each and every occupier and so if there are multiple tenants then the fine would be significant. There is also a suggestion that the new Immigration Bill that is currently in Parliament will also seek to impose criminal sanctions for landlords for non compliance.
There are different rules for tenants who have permanent rights of residence and those with limited rights of residence and these will be covered in our next blog.
What needs to be done?
Landlords have to check the ID of everyone who is over 18 who will be proposing to occupy the property and whether they have a permanent right to reside in the UK or a limited right to reside in the UK. Whilst this currently will apply to new tenancies granted from 1st February 2016 onwards, it is expected that this will be extended to include all tenancies granted in the future. Our next blog will cover the ID requirements in more detail and how you can get assistance from the Home Office for checking documents
The landlord would normally be required to make the checks but they can pass the responsibility to their letting agent, but only by written agreement. If no written agreement is entered into, to make it clear who is responsible for the checks, then the Landlord is assumed to have responsibility.
As well as ensuring that they have seen the original correct documentation and these must be checked in the presence of the person to which the ID relates. Landlords must take reasonable steps to ensure that the documents are valid and are not copies or fraudulent documents. Expired ID is also unacceptable and Landlords are required to look for obvious signs of tampering. Copies must be taken of all ID obtained for inspection in the event that an enquiry is made as to a tenant’s right to rent.
What if the prospective Tenant has no ID?
If there is no ID available then a check will have to be made with the Home Office and the form can be found here: https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/lcs-application.ofml. The checks take 2-3 working days as a minimum to be returned.