Matthew Oliver, NLA’s Parliamentary Officer, outlines what the changes will mean.
In a written ministerial statement, the government yesterday announced the areas where they will be piloting the Immigration Act Landlords Scheme. This is the scheme where landlords are required to check the immigration status of tenants, as prescribed in the Immigration Act.
What do you need to know?
From 1 December 2014, landlords in these areas will need to check that someone has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them. This includes landlords who take in lodgers or sub-let property.
Therefore, the right to rent checks will only apply to:
- landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton
- all adults aged 18 and over living at the property (children under 18 will not need to be checked)
- only new tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014
Landlords will need to see evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, for example a passport or biometric residence permit. Copies of the documentation will need to be taken as evidence the checks have been carried out and retained for one year after the tenancy ends.
Importantly, if landlords let a property after 1 December to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent, then they could be fined up to £3,000.
The landlords code of practice
The Home Office have released guidance to support landlords with the changes. The Landlords Code of Practice explains:
- if your property is affected
- if any exemptions apply
- how to carry out a right to rent check
- what documents individuals can show you as evidence of their right to rent
- when and how to request a right to rent check from the Home Office
We have to take a practical approach to the issue and it would be fruitless to make any more sweeping statements about our opposition to the plans – we’re far past that point.
However, right to rent checks bring about significant changes for landlords, so we hope that the pilot roll-out provides an opportunity for the Home Office to test the changes and to understand the implications they will have on the process of securing private rented housing.
Combatting illegal immigration is important, but we’ve always been concerned that if landlords are made responsible for making initial immigration checks then the process must be simple to carry out. And on the face of it, the system for checking and verifying a tenant’s right to rent seems both practical and workable, but only where someone’s right to rent is clear cut. Where there is doubt, landlords will need to check with the Home Office which could take up to two working days.
The changes could therefore make it harder for tenants with question marks over their eligibility to rent property in the UK, regardless of their legal status to remain,; any delay to verifying the immigration status of a given individual will hinder the usually expedient process of securing a home in the private rented sector, thus making them less desirable to let to.
The Home Office expects to continue with the phased introduction of checks across the UK next year. To advise the implementation and evaluation of the measures, the Government is convening a Consultative Panel, consisting of key stakeholders, including the NLA.
We trust that our presence and feedback to the panel on the first phase of the roll-out will be thoroughly evaluated and considered to ensure a smooth transition for landlords.