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Regulation of residential lettings is on the increase. On 1 December 2014, residential landlords (or their appointed agents) in the pilot area of Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton become liable for civil penalties of up to £3,000 per illegal adult tenant.
The intention is that, following an evaluation in the Spring, this will be rolled out nationwide next year. The scheme is not yet fully finalised and the information in this note is therefore subject to change.
Landlords will be able to avoid this liability by performing immigration document checks which give them a “statutory excuse” if a properly checked tenant is then discovered to be an illegal immigrant.
Landlords will be able to delegate their document checks to an agent, in which case the agent also becomes liable for the civil penalties. Landlords and agents therefore need to understand their obligations and adapt their tenancy agreements and terms of business.
Agents and landlords will sometimes need to ask relatively intrusive and culturally sensitive questions of a prospective tenant to establish whether a right to rent check is necessary. In making these enquiries they will need to comply with equality and data protection laws - and also try to avoid causing offence.
The new law will apply to new tenancies where the property will be the tenant’s main home. Licences and lodgers are included, and sub-lettings are also affected.
There are some exclusions, including short holiday lets, care homes, hospitals, some student accommodation, and long leases for over seven years with no break clause.
The checks, which must normally be performed prior to a tenancy agreement being signed (and always before a tenant takes up occupation of a property), involve:
Official guidance asserts that the checks are simple and will in most cases take a matter of minutes.
We know from our many years’ experience assisting employers with similar statutory ‘right to work’ checks that, unfortunately, immigration document checks are often not so straightforward. Landlords and agents need to have an understanding of:
Our team can provide expert advice and training on:
This article was written by Anne-Marie Balfour.
For more information please contact Anne-Marie on +44 (0)20 7427 6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org