this month, landlords will be responsible, by law, for checking the immigration status of tenants before renting proper ty to them and could face hefty sanctions if they fail to.
Detailed guidance for landlords has been published, but here is a brief guide to what you need to be aware of if you are a landlord, or proposing to become one.
The Immigration Act became law in May but the changes as to who carries out the checks are to be applied in phases. To this end, it is proposed that a pilot will begin in October, although details of where and how this will be put into action are yet to be confirmed.
Essentially, in due course, all residential landlords will be required to examine the immigration status of all prospective tenants, to check whether they have permission to be in the UK if they require it.
If you do not check, and a tenant is subsequently found not to have the right to reside in the UK, you may be liable to fines of up to £3,000, or even a stay in prison.
Some proper ty is exempt from the proposals – such as social housing, student and tourist accommodation – but most privately rented accommodation will be affected by these new rules.
If you think illegal immigrants may be living in a proper ty, there would be no liability to the penalty if it the matter is repor ted to UK Visas and Immigration.
The responsibility to make the checks can be transferred to a letting agent if this is agreed in writing.
So that the immigration status of a prospective tenant can be easily found, it is also likely that online and freephone checking ser vices will be introduced.
If a tenant’s immigration status has a time limit, you must make a new check ever y year, or conduct the check prior to the expir y date if that is later.
The guidance does need to be read and understood, as although landlords are not expected to have exper t immigration knowledge, ignorance of the new rules will not be a defence and it has been suggested that landlords might want to consider taking out insurance against any possible liability.