Maximum 5 Year Jail Sentence for Landlords Failing Immigration Checks

Illegal immigration is one of the hot political topics at the moment

At the Conservative Party conference last month the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, made a speech about immigration:

“Today, I am announcing that from December, landlords who knowingly rent out property to people who have no right to be here will be committing a criminal offence. They could go to prison”

And so we found out that the Immigration Act 2016 will come into force from 1st December, making changes to the Right-to-Rent scheme first launched in February this year.

Right to Rent Offences

Since February all private landlords in England have had to carry out “right to rent” checks on tenants for all new tenancies they grant as part of the Government’s plans to crack down on illegal immigration.

Landlords currently face a fine of up to £3000 if they are found to be letting property to people without the right to reside in England.

But that is set to change. From 1st December a landlord would have committed a criminal offence where they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who is disqualified due to their immigration status.

An offence is also being brought in from 1st December for agents who knew or “had reasonable cause to believe” that their landlord client was letting to a tenant who was disqualified due to their immigration status.

The penalties for both offences are:

  • on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, to an unlimited fine or to both; or
  • on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to an unlimited fine or to both.

After pressure from landlord bodies the Government have ensured that there is a more robust defence for landlords than was initially drafted. The courts will have to have regard to the published guidance that states it is a defence if:

  • the landlord has taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy
  • the landlord has taken the steps in a reasonable time period since finding out about the tenant’s disqualification from renting.

Evictions & Possession

Where the landlord has received a written notice from the Home Office that their tenant/s are disqualified from renting, two new routes for regaining possession will be open.

Where all the tenants in the property are disqualified the landlord will be able to issue a new eviction notice, giving tenants a 28 day period to vacate the property. At the end of the notice period you may peaceably re-enter the property to regain possession. Alternatively you can appoint a High Court Enforcement officer as the new notice is enforceable as if it were an order of the High Court.

If not all tenants are disqualified from renting, the changes are also bringing in a new mandatory ground on which to seek possession. If you have received a written notice from the Home Office identifying one or more of your tenants as disqualified from renting you can rely on Ground 7B.

If the tenancy is a joint tenancy and not all of the joint tenants are disqualified then the court may transfer the tenancy to the qualified tenants, instead of making an order for possession.

All these changes are coming into force on December 1st 2016. The NLA runs Immigration Courses to assist all landlord and agents in England who are required to check the documentation of any prospective tenants and adult occupiers applying to rent the property. 

18 thoughts on “Maximum 5 Year Jail Sentence for Landlords Failing Immigration Checks

  1. This is the Tories appeasing its right wing, at the expense of the landlords.
    Look where this policy got them!!

  2. And here I am thinking that the only “reasonably” cast iron defence would be to ask the Home Office for their opinion on each and every tenant regardless of what paperwork we are shown. As we are not qualified to know what is and isn’t valid paperwork, or to spot forged versions of something we aren’t familiar with anyway, then I think a valid interpretation would be that nothing short of getting an expert opinion is “reasonable” given the potential penalty. A £3k fine is one thing (still painful), but a criminal record is something else.
    Someone better let the Home Office know to start staffing up their query line !

    1. An excellent idea, I will be forwarding all copies of documentation to the Home Office from now on (even the British applicants) and requesting their express confirmation that the applicants have the right to rent, when the clowns are drowning in a sea of paper perhaps they’ll rethink this unworkable nonsense.

  3. Exactly! And perhaps rather than waste endless hours on the phone waiting for an answer, put it in writing and let the Home Office deal with the backlog, so we have documentary evidence of having checked. The government’s asking us to do the Home Office’s job for them, so maybe better to shunt it all back to the Home Office. In writing.

  4. Simon & Dave, both valid comments. However this will not stop the local Environment Officer in trying to ‘achieve’ a result against us, thereby scoring points for the next promotion.

      1. I cannot see how else Home Secretary, Home Secretary, Amber Rudd proposes to enforce this incredibly stupid law, I cannot see the Police wanting to get involved..
        Amber Rudd, what a disappointment! She has just handed the whole of S Yorkshire to Libs or UKIP.

      2. Presumably the government is going to rely on the fear of criminalisation to enforce this, as you say, incredibly stupid law if indeed it can be enforced at all.

  5. Presumably the government is going to rely on the fear of criminalisation to enforce this, as you say, incredibly stupid law if indeed it can be enforced at all.

    1. Indeed, it’s going to be very difficult to enforce. In practical terms what will happen is people will only get caught in three situations :
      1) They are good, honest, and decent landlords and effectively rat on themselves.
      2) There’s some random checks which will almost by definition only affect those landlords who made themselves known to the authorities – ie the good, honest, decent ones.
      3) It’ll be a “lucky dip” additional charge when something else happens. Ie, if the landlord/premises is being investigated for other breaches of renting/housing law and they check all the paperwork while they’re at it.
      Put it another way, those who don’t care about complying with the law will continue to not care – just about one more law they know they stand a very good chance of getting away with ignoring. For the rest of us, it’s yet another bit of red tape to wrangle with.

  6. So many opinions but please explain exactly HOW a landlord carries out this legal check. Which documents are we required to look at? What proof to provide that we have looked at such documents? Do we mention that the applicant’s passport looked suspiciously new and had spelling mistakes , such as “Indira” for India ? or “come around” for Cameroon? or “Lesbian” for Lebanon?
    Mrs O.A.P. Martin

    1. For starters, see https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents/who-to-check
      Following some links gets you to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-document-checks-a-user-guide where there’s a user guide on what documents are acceptable.
      And I guess, if in doubt, check https://www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check – but whizzing through that, it only asks “does the person have …” and there’s no mention of “does the document look suspicious”. In that case, I guess a call to the helpline on 0300 069 9799 is in order.

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