Author: Roy Perrott
There have been concerns for some time that rogue residential landlords are letting their properties to illegal immigrants, who then evade deportation. These properties are often unsafe with no sanitation. With that in mind, new statutory provisions have been implemented that will fine landlords up to £3,000 if they do not check their tenants’ immigration status. British citizens, EEA and Swiss nationals and anyone who has indefinite leave to remain are fine. For everyone else, the landlord will have to carry out checks. Visitors with a time-limited visa (e.g. guest workers) will be allowed to rent for the duration of their visa but the landlord will need to follow up to make sure that the visa has been renewed and file a report to the Home Office if it has not.
The easiest way to check a prospective tenant’s status is to ask to see their passport, which must be checked in the tenant’s presence. The landlord will need to take a copy and retain this with a record of the date on which the check was made. All adult occupiers will need to be checked, not just the person whose name will be on the tenancy. The new measures apply to lodgers too so anyone renting a room needs to be aware of the new legislation.
Understandably, there has been some opposition to these measures with the suggestion that landlords are, in effect, being required to do the Home Office’s job. This fear might be justified as the landlord is also expected when checking the tenant’s ID to ensure that there are no obvious signs of fraud, such as names, photographs or dates of birth that don’t match.
The primary duty to carry out these checks falls on the landlord. It is possible to pass on this duty to an agent. Most reputable estate agents already check the identity of incoming tenants so they may be prepared to assume the new statutory duty, either as part of their normal services to the landlord or in return for an additional fee.
It is important to point out that these provisions are not yet in force. They are being implemented on a phased geographical basis. They will be rolled out in the West Midlands on 1 December and then, gradually, across the rest of the country.
Roy Perrott, Professional Support Lawyer, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)