The new rules under the Immigration Act 2016 becomes effective on 1st December 2016. Landlords, letting agents and homeowners need to check that a prospective tenant has the right to remain in the UK. For the average landlord this additional burden could leave them exposed to criminal penalties and create an unnecessary administrative burden.
The reasoning behind the new legislation is to free up private properties being used by illegal immigrants for UK residents as a means of addressing the current shortage of rental properties on the market.
Many landlords are still trying to get to grips with the changes surrounding the service of section 21 notices and the procedures for protecting deposits obtained at the commencement of a tenancy. Checking the immigration status of prospective and existing tenants requires an understanding of what type of checks to make. Landlords will need to be careful that they do not breach the Equality Act 2010 by discriminating against prospective tenants on the basis of their race or nationality. The guidance given on the Government website states, all tenants need to provide evidence of their immigration status regardless of race.
The knock on effect of the new Act is two fold: (1) like other statutory obligations, a landlord cannot rely on its agent to carry out the necessary checks unless it gets a written agreement from the agent that it will be responsible for compliance with the rules; (2) increased administrative costs - as the process of checking the tenant's immigration status may require the use of external agencies especially for busy or non- resident landlords.
From 1 December, landlords could be charged with a criminal offence if they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, that they are letting to an illegal migrant. From 1 December landlords can end tenancies for occupants with no right to rent. The government has produced a fact sheet on the Immigration Act 2016 and how it affects residential tenancies, but the information it contains is limited. The Act intends to make it more difficult for those with no right to be in the UK to rent, and to crack down on rogue landlords and agents who are exploiting migrants and abusing the immigration system. The way this will happen is by creating... new criminal offences and making it easier for private landlords to evict illegals.