New legislation being phased in means that some landlords will need to check that someone has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them, or even allowing them to live in the property.
This includes landlords who take in lodgers or sub-let property, but only applies to tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014.
Currently the scheme only applies in the Birmingham area, but it seems clear that it will eventually be rolled out nationwide (after teething problems are ironed out) and all landlords will be required to make the checks.
Only people with permission or a right to be in the UK have a right to rent property.
You should not let or sub-let any property to people who do not have the right to be in the UK. If you are found letting to someone who does not have the right to be in the UK, and you cannot show that you have made the right to rent checks, then you could face a penalty.
Furthermore if you are required to make the checks you have to check every adult living at the property, not just the person whose name is to be on the tenancy agreement.
In most cases you’ll be able to carry out the checks without contacting the Home Office. All you need to do is check evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, for example a passport or the new Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which is being introduced for use by all non-EEA immigrants looking to extend their visa or settle in the UK.
The Checks Required
Before allowing an adult to live in a property, the landlord must check that they have document(s) that show they have the right to be in the UK. Details of what documents to check are here.
If they have temporary right to be in the UK(for university or work) but their paperwork/visa will expire during the tenancy, the landlord must make follow-up checks either when the right expires or after 12 months, whichever is later.
If a follow-up check shows that a person no longer has the right to be in the UK, the landlord must make an official report to the Home Office.
If an illegal migrant is found living in your property and you haven’t made the checks or reports mentioned above, then you may be liable to a civil penalty of up to £3000. You will receive a referral notice informing you that your case is being considered by the Home Office, then an information request giving you the opportunity to present further information, such as evidence that you carried out the checks correctly.
These new requirements would seem to open up all manner of issues around potential discrimination, despite the fact the Home Office say the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as well as representatives of landlords and letting agents, are to oversee the first phase of the scheme before it is rolled out nationally.
Certainly any landlord or letting agent who refuses to let a home to someone on the basis of suspicion alone, perhaps because of their colour, name or accent, would be breaking the law, but some landlords could be put off by the extra work required to make checks on paperwork they’re not familiar with. This may even put the 9 million UK citizens who don’t hold a passport at a disadvantage too.
There is also an argument that rents could rise if landlords, fearful of a hefty fine, employ agencies to undertake the checks and pass the cost on to tenants.
Let’s see how the trial goes; thank goodness is doesn’t apply to landlords and tenants in the Aldershot and Farnborough area yet!