From 1st December 2014 landlords of residential properties in certain pilot areas (currently parts of the West Midlands) will be required to carry out “right to rent” checks into the immigration status of all proposed residential tenants/occupiers.  Landlords who fail to comply with the new requirements could face a penalty of £3,000 per illegal occupier.

The relevant provisions are contained in Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 which prohibits landlords from letting residential properties to adult illegal migrants under a residential tenancy agreement.  This includes ASTs, leases, licences, tenancies at will and agreements for any of the above. There are certain letting arrangements which are excluded i.e. social housing accommodation, student accommodation, accommodation in hospitals, care homes and accommodation provided by an employer.

The requirements will not apply to tenancy agreements entered into for seven years or more (as long as there is no break option for the first seven years), letting agreements which are already in existence and where there is a statutory right of succession i.e. Rent Act protected tenancies. 

The draft Code of Practice published by the government in September 2014 contains basic steps to be carried out by landlords to conduct the “right to rent check”.  This includes establishing the adults who are intending to occupy the property and obtaining and retaining copies of acceptable documents (as listed in the draft code).  Such documentary evidence should be retained by the Landlord for the duration of the letting term plus an additional period of 12 months.

Landlords are advised to incorporate the basic steps of checking the “right to rent” into their existing pre-letting packs.  The Home Office states that it intends to evaluate the pilot scheme next spring, but it is expected  that there will be a phased introduction of this landlord’s responsibility across the UK during the course of 2015.