Support, Advice and Experience within the Property Market

Immigration Act 2014 – The Facts

From Robert Ulph on October 30, 2015

Every week there seems to be a new Act or piece of legislation coming into force for the Lettings Industry and this week has been no exception. Everything is moving so fast that this week I had to re-write this article at the last moment as my original version was already out of date, only two days after I’d written it.

The Home Office has just announced that from February 1, 2016, the Right to Rent scheme will be extended across the whole of England. This means all private landlords, or their agents, in England, including those subletting or taking in lodgers, will have to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property to them.

It has also been confirmed that in the pilot scheme area “letting agents have reported that the scheme actually assisted, rather than hindered, their own ID checks.” Right to Rent is one part of the government’s ongoing reforms to the immigration system to make it harder for people to live in the UK illegally.

What will happen now?

As of February 1 next year, anyone who rents out private property in England will need to see and make a copy of evidence that any new tenant (over the age of 18) has the right to rent in the UK. This evidence could be a passport or a biometric residence permit for example.

It has been reported that this process should be very simple and in most cases, it says, checks can be carried out without contacting the Home Office. However, if a tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, landlords can request a Home Office “Right to Rent” check. I personally have seen a demo of this software and it seems to work very well but I am concerned that the system will not be able to cope with the amount of enquires when it rolls out on the 1st February 2016. It is proposed to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about the tenant and provide this answer within two working days. Landlords who don’t make the checks could face a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant if they are found to be renting out a property to someone who is in the UK illegally.

For landlords and letting agents the primary focus of the Immigration Bill is about steps being taken to make it easier to evict those with no right to remain in the UK. These grounds for repossession of property would be triggered by the Home Office serving a notice on the landlord. Some parts of the press are reporting that this Bill could amount to discrimination against some tenants from agents and Landlords but as long as there will be enough information prior to the 1st February 2016 I am sure that it will work.