12 Dec 2014

Residential Property

Compulsory Immigration Checks for Landlords

In an attempt to make it harder for illegal immigrants to rent accommodation, the Government have introduced, through the Immigration Act 2014, a requirement for landlords of private rental accommodation to conduct checks to establish that their new tenants have the right to rent in the UK.

The requirement for these checks is currently being phased in and commenced in the West Midlands on 1 December 2014. The right to rent checks will only apply to new tenancy agreements and those existing tenancy agreements remain unaffected meaning that landlords are not required to carry out retrospective checks in respect of their tenants.

Whilst this is currently being phased in, the checks are likely to become mandatory for all UK landlords in 2015. It is therefore important for all landlords to familiarise themselves with the process to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the Act and avoid facing a civil penalty for failing to comply.

Failure to comply could result in a civil penalty up to a maximum of £3,000. It is therefore important that all landlords ensure that the checks are carried out in accordance with the guidance issued by the Government.The Government suggest that the purpose of these additional checks are to ensure that new tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally and also to compliment the Government’s work in tackling rogue landlords who provide sub-standard or illegal accommodation.

Landlords could be forgiven for thinking that they do not have the necessary means in order to be able to check someone’s immigration status. However, a prudent landlord would be carrying out checks in respect of their tenant in any event. Therefore, is obtaining sufficient proof of an individual’s immigration status and right to rent in the UK really that much of an additional obligation? I would suggest not.

Most landlords should, as a matter of course, thoroughly vet their prospective tenants prior to confirming the agreement. This can be through completing credit checks, obtaining references from previous landlords, and/or investigating their prospective tenants means to continue to afford the rent. As part of this process, landlords will be able to obtain the relevant proof to satisfy themselves that the prospective tenant has the right to rent in the UK.

This should not hold up the letting of the property as the prospective tenant should be able to provide the relevant documentation easily. If they cannot, the landlord should be wary.There are landlords who, for whatever reason, fail to vet their tenants adequately. The introduction of the requirements to check a prospective tenant’s immigration status will hopefully prompt those landlords to conduct proper vetting of the prospective tenant. After all, why would you rent one of your most prized assets to an unknown individual without ensuring that they will look after it and have the means to maintain their rental obligations?

Whilst the introduction of this check will increase the obligations placed on a landlord, I cannot help but feel that it will be useful to all landlords in ensuring an adequate vetting procedure prior to the commencement of any tenancy agreement.

Please contact Craig Court to discuss further 01633 244233 or email courtc@hevans.com

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