From October 2014, residential landlords and letting agents will be required to examine the immigration status of all prospective tenants, in order to check whether those tenants have permission to be in the UK before allowing them to occupy accommodation.
Failure to do so may result in a fine on the landlord or letting agent of up to £3,000 for each illegal migrant tenant!
The government’s aim is to prevent individuals with no legal right to live in the UK from accessing private rented housing.
Landlords and agents should ensure that they check everyone’s documents, to avoid accusations of discrimination.
Who does this affect?
- Landlords – who enter into residential tenancy agreements (RTA). An RTA is a contract between the landlord and tenant, allowing the tenant to reside at the landlord’s residential premises in return for the payment of rent monies. The landlord will have a duty to check the individual’s immigration status before entering into the agreement.
- Letting Agencies – if the landlord uses a letting agency, then the duty to examine an individual’s immigration status passes to the agency. Landlords will need to ensure that the agency cannot claim reimbursement of any fine under their respective agreement.
- New Tenants – All prospective tenants (from October 2014) will need to show their landlord or letting agency that they have the legal right to reside in the UK. The new rules will not have any effect on tenancies entered before that date, even when those tenancies are subsequently renewed.
Are there any exemptions to the rule?
Yes. There is no duty to carry out immigration checks under the following circumstances:
- Social housing rented to tenants nominated by the local authority;
- Privately rented homes let to people under the homelessness legislation;
- Accommodation provided to employees;
- Tourist accommodation such as hotels and guest houses where the person is staying less than three months;
- Properties let under short-term business or holiday lets (less than three months);
- Properties rented for commercial use (shops, offices);
- Hostels and refuges providing crisis accommodation to homeless and other vulnerable people;
- Hospital accommodation of patients, hospices and care homes; and
- University / college halls of residence, boarding schools and children’s homes.
How can landlords or letting agents check a person’s immigration status?
- The Home Office intend to create an online device which can be used to check whether someone has permission to live in the UK. In addition, the Home Office will also provide a free telephone enquiry line and an e-mail service.
- The government will also be publishing a draft Code of Practice this summer which will set out guidance for landlords.
What documents are acceptable as evidence of an individual’s right to reside in the UK?
- For citizens of the 27 other member countries of the European Union (and also Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), presentation of a passport, national identity card of an EU member state or evidence of receipt of UK benefits will satisfy the requirements.
- Most people from other countries will have a Biometric Residence Permit which clearly shows the time limit on their stay.
- Foreign visitors who are staying for less than six months cannot obtain a Biometric Residence Permit and will need to show a passport containing a UK immigration stamp whose time limit is still valid.
- In a few cases (e.g. diplomats, asylum seekers, people with an outstanding immigration application) alternative documents may be shown, some of which will need to be verified with the Home Office.
When do these checks need to be made?
- Before entering into an RTA, landlords or letting agents will need to check the immigration status of all new tenants to make sure they have permission to live in the UK.
- Checks will also need to be carried out on adults who the landlord or agency knows will be living at the property even if they are not named on the RTA.
- If the landlord or letting agency rents a property to a person who only has a temporary right to live in the UK (such as a student or a sponsored worker), they will need to recheck their immigration status when that temporary right expires.
What steps do landlords and letting agents need to take?
Landlords and letting agents should take reasonable steps to:
- find out who will be living at the property before the rental agreement starts;
- make immigration checks on all adults to check that they are entitled to be in the UK at that time; and
- create policies to ensure that the immigration status of any tenant and/or other occupier of residential property is correctly checked before any RTA is entered into.
Unsure as to whether the right checks have been completed? How we can help
If you are uncertain as to whether you have carried out the correct checks or whether your potential tenant’s documents are valid, then you should seek legal advice.
We have immigration and employment lawyers with a wealth of knowledge and experience in assisting with immigration document checks. We can help by providing you with sound advice and practical assistance to ensure that your checks and documents are compliant with UK law.