The Immigration Act 2014 (IA 2014) which received Royal Assent on 14 May 2014 prohibits private landlords of residential properties from allowing certain people to occupy those properties based on their immigration status. The prohibition is based on the immigration status of the occupiers and landlords will have to check the status of prospective tenants, and other permitted occupiers, to ascertain whether they have the right to occupy their properties before granting a tenancy. If landlords fail to do so then they run the risk of a heavy fine.
From 1 December 2014 the government piloted the so-called “right to rent” scheme in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton as part of a phased introduction. The government has now issued a press release announcing that the scheme will apply to all private landlords in England from 1 February 2016.
Who does the Act apply to?
Landlords will be prevented from letting residential premises to individuals who are “disqualified” as a result of their immigration status. A person is disqualified from occupying property under a residential tenancy agreement if they:
- are not a “relevant national” ie either a British citizen, a national of the EEA state or a Swiss national; and
- they do not have a right to rent in relation to the property.
No right to rent exists if the person requires leave to enter or remain in the UK and do not have it, or if they have leave but it is subject to conditions preventing them from occupying the property.
What are the Penalties?
Under section 23 IA 2014, Landlords will be liable for a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per illegal occupant. There will also be a continuing obligation to check the immigration status of occupants throughout the tenancy and to notify if their status changes. It may be possible to avoid penalties if a statutory “excuse” can be established either by undertaking the requisite checks or promptly reporting any “suspect” occupiers.
A Bit of Assistance!
The government has also published “Home Office: A short guide for landlord on right to rent” which is designed to assist landlords, homeowners and letting agents in undertaking the required “right to rent” checks. The publication contains guidance on who must make the initial checks, how to carry out those checks and when repeat checks are required.