On 8 May 2013, during the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen set out the legislative priorities for the forthcoming session. In her speech, she announced the introduction of a new Immigration Bill which will tighten immigration law and strengthen enforcement powers by requiring, amongst other reforms, landlords to either check the immigration status of tenants or face fines if they do not.

Following this, on 3 July 2013, the Home Office announced in a written ministerial statement that, in conjunction with the forthcoming Immigration Bill, it has published both an overview of the proposal and a full consultation paper on prohibiting illegal migrants from renting accommodation in the UK.

New rules are anticipated to take effect in 2014.

The proposals will affect:

  1. those who are renting out accommodation for people to live in anywhere in the United Kingdom. Potentially, this could include taking in a lodger (or similar) into the home where they are living;
  2. a letting agent who provides a service for landlords by finding people to live in rented property or who manages the property for them;
  3. a hotel or guest house or provider of similar accommodation taking in guests who stay for three months or more; and
  4.  those who are intending to live in rented accommodation anywhere in the United Kingdom in the future (potentially including as a paying lodger in someone else’s home).

One proposed exemption is social housing rented to tenants nominated by the local authority. This is because there are already tight controls which prevent illegal migrants from being placed on local authorities housing registers. However, to the extent that social housing providers let to tenants who are not referred by a local authority, or otherwise participate in the private rented sector, such arrangements will be subject to this scheme.

With regards to lodgers and sub-tenants, in the social rented sector, the right to take in a lodger or to sub-let depends upon the type of tenancy a person has: a secure tenancy or an assured tenancy. Following this, the Government does not wish to impose unnecessary burdens on this informal sector of the economy. For social housing tenants who are in receipt of housing benefits, taking in a lodger or sub-tenant can mitigate the impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy. At the same time, excluding lodgers and sub-tenants from the policy could make a material impact on the effectiveness of the policy if it simply means that illegal migrants are diverted from renting properties in their own right to living as lodgers or sub-tenants of other households. The Government is therefore asking in this consultation whether lodgers and sub-tenants should be included in the policy.

If lodgers and sub-tenants were to be included, then making the checks would need to be the responsibility of the households and tenants who take in lodgers or sub-tenants. In the social housing sector, the Government expects that social housing providers would want to bring this to the attention of their tenants, as part of their regular engagement and involvement with tenants, and would work with them to promote such dissemination in advance of the policy coming into effect.

The proposed checks are fashioned on the Prevention of Illegal Working checks currently made by employers in that landlords will need to take reasonable steps, before the rental arrangement starts, to make immigration checks on all the adults (children to be exempt) in order to check that they are entitled to be in the UK. The Home Office will publish guidance so that landlords can compare potential tenants’ documents against a list of acceptable documents.

The Home Office would operate an enquiry service to help in situations where a landlord is unclear about the documentation he or she may accept or needs to verify some of the less common forms of documents, eg a Certificate of Application, a Home Office letter of authorisation, etc.

Responsibility for completing the checks would normally rest with the landlord; but this responsibility could be transferred to a letting agent where the letting agent agrees to this in writing. Where a property is rented to a company, then the company would be responsible for making checks on people that live in that property.

If illegal migrants are found living in rented accommodation, which is not exempt or for which there are no extenuating circumstances (eg the landlord was deceived by well-forged documents), penalties would be calculated as follows:

a. landlord or letting agent who has not received an advisory letter or notice of liability within the past three years: £1,000 per adult illegal migrant; and

b. landlord or letting agent who has received an advisory letter or notice of liability within the past three years: £3,000 per adult illegal migrant.

This consultation runs for seven weeks until 21 August 2013, and the public may respond to the consultation by completing an online survey.