New housing rules to control immigration

On the 3rd September 2014 the Immigration and Security Minister announced that the new measures contained within the Immigration Act 2014 that will see landlords face fines if they rent homes to illegal immigrants without checking ‘their right to rent’. A pilot scheme will be launched in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton first as part of a phased introduction across the Country. The new measures will come into force on 1st December 2014.

The new requirements will apply to all new tenancies, leases below 7 years, sub-lets or lodging agreements granted on or after 1st December 2014.

The new law will mean private landlords will have to check the right of prospective tenants to be in the UK if they want to avoid potentially being fined up to £3,000.

Local Authorities are exempted as are other social landlord’s including those who run hostels and refuges. Charities, care homes and voluntary organisations are also exempt.

So how will a landlord know if someone is disqualified by virtue of their immigration status? The Home Office has released a work in progress ‘Code of Practice on Illegal Immigrants and Private Rented Accommodation’ for landlords and letting agents. Landlords and agents will need to be familiar with the requirements within the material by December.

Landlords will need to see evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship i.e passport, a national identity card, a permanent residency card etc. There are two lists contained within the Code of Practice, List A and List B which refer to acceptable single documents or a combination of documentation to establish the evidence required. In most cases landlords will be able to do this without the need to contact the Home Office. Copies of documentation will need to be taken as evidence that the checks have been carried out and must be retained for one year after the tenancy agreement ends. More information about how to carry out the checks is available at www.Gov.uk. A helpline is also available 0300 069 9799.

The Immigration Act 2014 became law in May this year and builds on the Government’s ongoing reforms to make sure the immigration system works in the national interest. The Act focuses on stopping illegal migrants using public services to which they are not entitled.

The rules may come as a shock for some private landlords especially where an individual has become a landlord because of the decision not to sell their property, but to instead let it due to the fall in property prices in some areas of the Country. The Act places a burden on landlords to complete the checks required but also poses the risk of landlords discriminating against a potential tenant if they are not able to prove their immigration status. The Residential Landlords Association (RSA) believes that the new rules will jeopardise good landlord and tenant relationships.

Chris Town, the RLA Vice Chair commented:

Many British people do not have a passport and for those tenants on housing benefits, without passports, this will create an added difficulty for landlords.

Whilst the RLA fully supports measures to ensure everyone in the UK legally resides here, this policy continues to smack of political posturing rather than a seriously thought through policy.

For a Government committed to reducing the burden of red tape it is ironic that they are now seeking to impose a significant extra burden on landlords making them scapegoats for the UK Border Agency’s failings”. For more information please visit; https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-of-changes-in-immigration-rules–8

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/22/part/3/chapter/1/enacted

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/350211/Landlords_scheme_-_draft_Code_of_Practice.pdf

Aisha Akhtar, Assistant Solicitor, Prince Evans Solicitors LLP

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