The Immigration Act 2014 came into force on the 1st February. This piece of legislation imposes a duty on residential landlords or their agents, effectively a migrant check scheme, to carry out checks on prospective tenants to confirm whether or not they have the right to rent in the UK. If you don’t do this then civil penalties of up to £3,000, imprisonment for up to 5 years and further sanctions will apply under the Proceeds of Crime Act if you don’t carry out the checks.
Who can rent?
Only ‘Relevant’ Nationals have the Right to Rent – individuals are disqualified from occupying premises under a residential tenancy agreement if they are not relevant nationals and do not have a right to rent in relation to the premises. So who is a relevant national? If you are a British citizen, EEA or Swiss national then you qualify. If you require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it, or if your right to enter or remain in the UK is subject to a condition preventing you from occupying premises then you do not have a right to rent. If you are living at the property but are not named on the rental agreement the rules still apply and a landlord must therefore make reasonable enquiries of the tenant as to the relevant occupiers before entering into any rental agreement.
Can my agent to take on the liability?
Landlords’ agents, acting in the course of business, if they have accepted responsibility in writing for compliance with these provisions will be liable for the penalty of up to £3,000 if they fail to carry out the checks. The government has produced a Code of Practice and guidance to assist landlords in identifying who is affected and how to carry out the necessary checks.
The big question is why we now have to do the checks. Essentially the migrant check scheme is aimed at illegal migrants with the intention to make it difficult for illegal migrants to rent property in the UK. The new requirements follow what is already in place for employers to ensure an employee has a right to work in the UK. The number of migrants living in the UK in private rented accommodation is very high up to as much as 85%.
As a landlord what do I need to do?
Under the scheme, Landlords will need to obtain and copy documents demonstrating or proving that the potential tenant has the right to rent in the UK, for example a passport or biometric resident’s permit. As with most document checks you should have sight of the original documents so that you are satisfied that the person is who they say they are.
The government intends to create a range of resources so that you can carry out this role such as the ability to check online andvto have a telephone helpline and facility to check pending applications for immigration with the Home Office. If the Home Office does not respond to you within two working days, then as a landlord you can go ahead and enter into a rental agreement without penalty.
Landlords & Letting Agents Blacklist – are you on it?
Further proposed legislation is planned that will create a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents. This will allow the Council to keep track of defaulters. For landlords who repeatedly ignore their obligations they will not be able to let out properties.
Currently a court order is required to evict a residential occupier. Under government plans once the Home Office issues a notice that the tenant no longer has a right to rent, the landlord would in certain circumstances be able to evict without a court order. The legislation will require landlords to take action or face the consequences. Other measures include enabling landlords to recover abandoned properties without going to court.
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