From February 1, private landlords and letting agents in England will have to request original ‘right to rent’ documents from prospective and, in some cases, actual tenants which show their entitlement to be in the country.
Any landlord or agent who fails to carry out document checks could face penalties of up to £3,000 for each disqualified person allowed to occupy the home.
Andrew Dekany, employment and immigration partner at leading commercial law firm Thrings, said: “The legislation places an onus on landlords and agents to be more proactive, to carry out checks on – and keep records of – identity documents of every adult occupier aged 18 and over before offering a tenancy agreement.
“If a prospective tenant cannot produce satisfactory documents, or if the documents are regarded by the landlord and/or agent as a possible forgery, they will be expected not to let to the individual.”
Do you need more information? Click here
James Brokenshire, Minister for Immigration at the Home Office, has described the checks as ’quick and simple’, adding that many responsible landlords already did them as a matter of routine.
The Home Office is offering a free Landlords Checking Service to help landlords and agents carry out the necessary checks on tenants’ documents in order to avoid potentially troublesome and expensive enforcement action later on.
Mr Dekany added: “The Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that right to rent checks will need to be carried out on at least 2.6m people per year. The Government is not expecting landlords and letting agents to have the skill and knowledge of UK immigration officers. They may need assistance in dealing with more complex areas.
“For example, landlords and letting agents are not allowed to discriminate directly or indirectly on grounds of a prospective tenant’s nationality, race or religion. There is also the whole question of how to shift the risk of a civil penalty where more than one person is potentially responsible for the right to rent checks.
“Employers and banks already have to check the immigration status of individuals before allowing them to start work or open a new current account respectively, so the concept is not a new one. Moreover, the introduction of the immigration checks has been known since last year’s Queen’s Speech, so landlords and letting agents have had sufficient time to prepare. Shutting their eyes to the new legislation is therefore not an option.”