Right to rent checks introduced for all landlords in England
The government has announced today that from 1 February 2016, all private landlords in England will have to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property. This is a further roll-out of the Right to Rent scheme introduced by the Immigration Act 2014, the first phase of which has been piloted in the West Midlands since December 2014. The Home Office have now published their review of the pilot and this can be seen here.
Under Right to Rent, landlords must check identity documents for all new tenants (with some exceptions) including lodgers, take copies and store them for future reference. The Home Office claim that “the scheme has been designed to make it straightforward for people to give evidence of their right to rent and a range of commonly used documents can be used”. Others argue that the range of documents which can be used, alongside their lack of experience in this field, make this a far from straightforward process.
What is certain though, is that the penalties for not complying with these rules can be tough. Currently civil fines up to £3,000 per tenant are in place and the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, which is currently before Parliament, proposes criminal sanctions including prison for those who breach the rules.
Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire claims:
“The government’s new Immigration Bill builds on the reforms in last year’s Act, making it harder for people to live and work in the UK illegally. The Bill proposes new measures to make it easier for landlords to evict illegal tenants as well as a new criminal offence targeted at unscrupulous landlords who repeatedly fail to carry out right to rent checks.”
In response Mark Lilley-Tams, an immigration law solicitor at Paragon Law, said:
“Evidencing the right to be in the UK is a difficult process given the wide array of different documents available to prove this and landlords are generally not experts on immigration law. Delays in proving the right to rent can be expensive and time consuming for landlords and that is before you factor in the risk of civil fines, imprisonment and even uncapped discrimination claims if they make a mistake or fail to correctly store the documents they rely upon.
To assist landlords and letting agents we have introduced our Right2Rent service which allows us to take on legal responsibility for carrying out these checks and storing documentation. The feedback we have from the pilot area is that landlords really do not feel comfortable with this added responsibility of carrying out immigration checks and the threat of criminal sanctions will not make this burden any easier.”
The Right to Rent scheme was given legal status by the Immigration Act 2014. Some of the additional powers required to toughen up the government’s approach to enforcement of the scheme are within the Immigration Bill which is currently being debated in Parliament. The progress of this bill can be viewed here.
Further information on Paragon Law’s Right2Rent scheme can be seen at www.right2rent.co.uk