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Immigration Status Checks on Residential Tenants and Occupiers

November 2014
Immigration Act 2014 – new requirements for landlords

The Immigration Act 2014 requires residential landlords to conduct checks on new adult tenants and occupiers to ensure that they have the right to reside in the UK. The aim is to make it difficult for illegal migrants to rent property.

Essentially, a person has the right to rent if they are a British citizen or an EU or Swiss national or if the person has leave to remain in the UK. Other people are disqualified from renting property in the UK.

Is my property affected?

From 1 December 2014, landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton need to comply with the new rules. Other areas will be added next year.

The implications for Landlords

Landlords must not allow properties to be occupied by people who are disqualified from renting. Landlords can be fined up to £3,000 for breaching this rule. However, landlords will not be fined if they can demonstrate that they have carried out appropriate checks on their tenants’ immigration status. Landlords may also avoid liability by appointing a letting agent to carry out the checks. The appointment must be made in writing.

What checks are required?

The checks are similar to the “right to work” checks that employers are required to undertake. The Home Office right to rent tool can be found here. There is also a Code of Practice, currently in “working draft” form, here. For more complex cases, a check can be requested from the Home Office’s Landlords Checking Service by submitting an online form or by telephone.

Landlords must retain copies of the tenant’s documents for the duration of the tenancy and for one year after. The information must be kept securely and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Implications for letting agents

As mentioned above, if a landlord uses a letting agent to negotiate the letting, and the agent is expressly responsible (under a written agreement) for carrying out the checks, the responsibility for carrying out checks and paying any fine falls on the agent rather than the landlord.

Amended documents

We have updated our Residential Tenancy Application Form to capture information about the tenant’s and other occupiers’ right to rent. We have also amended our Residential Lettings Agency Terms and Conditions to include a clause making the agent liable for carrying out right to rent checks (to the extent that they apply to the area in which the property is situated).

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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