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.