With 1 February 2016 looming around the corner, it is imperative for private landlords in England to be aware of and comply with the ‘right-to-rent’ rules imposed by the Immigration Act 2014. The rules were established by the government to deter illegal residents from remaining in the UK. Having already been piloted in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton, these rules will be in force across England from 1 February 2016. To remain ignorant may prove costly in the long run, with possible fines of up to £1,000 for a first time offence and up to £3,000 for further offences, if the property is rented to an individual who does not have the legal right to be in the UK. This fine will be applicable on every illegal tenant and adult occupant found to be at the property, which can be quite costly indeed!
Private landlords or their agents will be required to carry out checks on the prospective tenants and all other authorised adults that will be living at the property as their only or main home within 28 days before the grant of the tenancy, to confirm that they have the right to stay in the UK and this right will not lapse during the course of the tenancy. This applies to all types of tenancy agreements, whether by written or oral agreement.
Original documents proving that the individual/s concerned do have the right to stay in the UK should be requested with landlords or their agents retaining copies of these as well as ID documentation.
The obligations of landlords and agents will not stop at the initial checks but there will also be the requirement to carry out further checks to ensure their tenant/s and any authorised adult resident do still have permission to stay in the UK. These checks must be made just before: the expiry date of the tenant’s right to stay in the UK; and 12 months after the previous checks were carried out.
These requirements will not, of course, apply to those who are not subject to any time restrictions on their right to stay in the UK.
In the event that the tenant does not pass a check or further checks then this must be reported to the Home Office. Failure to do so may result in the financial sanctions mentioned.
Where the tenant sub-lets without your permission then the responsibility for the ‘right-to-rent’ checks is the sub-tenants and they will face the repercussions for failure to carry out these checks.
The following tenancy agreements are excluded from the ‘right-to-rent’ rules:
- Accommodation arranged by the local authority
- Social housing
- Care homes, hospitals and hospices and continuing healthcare provision
- Hostels and refuges – This applies to hostels and refuges that are managed by social landlords, voluntary organisations or charities and which are not operated on a commercial basis. Either the whole or part of the operating costs needs to derive from a government department, agency or a local authority
- Mobile homes – This applies to those mobiles homes which fall within the Mobile Homes Act 1983
- Tied accommodation – This applies to accommodation provided by an employer to an employee, or by a training provider to an individual in connection with the training provided
- Student accommodation
- Long leases granting a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more but does not include those agreements containing a break clause exercisable before the end of the 7 year term. The lease can, however, include forfeiture rights or a right of re-entry for the landlord.
Financial penalties may not be the only sanctions imposed on landlords and/or agents. Parliament is currently reviewing the Immigration Bill 2015-16, which aims to amend the Immigration Act 2014 to include a criminal offence for those landlords or agents who repeatedly fail to comply with the ‘right-to-rent’ rules.
Further guidance on the rules can be found within the Home Office’s publications: the ‘Landlord’s code of practice’; ‘A short guide for landlords on right to rent’; and ‘Right to Rent Document Checks: a User Guide’. These can be accessed on the below links: