Immigration Act 2014 ‘right to rent’ checks – Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell

Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords will be required to check the immigration status of their prospective tenants.  The government’s rationale for introducing the law is to ensure that illegal immigrants are unable to establish a settled life in the UK.  The law is to be implemented on a phased geographical basis and will apply to residential tenancy agreements entered on or after the date of implementation for that area.  The first area in which the Act is due to be enforced as of 1 December 2014, is Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell.  The government intends to introduce the same requirements during 2015 in the other parts of England and Wales.

To provide more guidance and assistance to landlords on the requirements of the Act, the government has now published a draft Code of Practice and created an online ‘right to rent tool’.  Although the Code specifically states that it does not impose any legal duties on landlords, it is nevertheless important that landlords understand and follow its rules as the Code can be used as evidence in legal proceedings and courts must take account of any part of the Code which may be relevant.  Home Office officials will also have regard to the Code in administering civil penalties to landlords and their agents under the Act.  The ‘right to rent tool’ has been created as a practical device to assist landlords in carrying out the checks.  After inserting the postcode of rented property and some basic information regarding the prospective tenants, the tool gives information on what checks are required.

It is also important to note that the new immigration rules have a link to employment law.  It is specifically pointed out in the Code that the checks carried out by landlords should be performed without regard to race, religion or other protected characteristics as specified in the Equality Act 2010.  Landlords should therefore carry out the checks on everyone who is to take a new tenancy to minimise the risk of accusations of discrimination.

Our lawyers have expertise in both immigration and employment law and we can provide sound and practical advice and assistance on the newly introduced law.

Kasia Janucik