Few topics have proved as contentious in the private rented sector (PRS) recently as the Immigration Bill. The legislation will make landlords, or the letting agents acting on their behalf, responsible for checking whether potential tenants have a legal right to live in the UK and has been heavily criticised by a number of figures and organisations within the PRS. Part of the controversy surrounding the Immigration Bill is that there is a degree of confusion regarding exactly what it means and how it will be implemented. With that in mind, we have produced a concise guide of everything you need to know based on the information currently available.
As mentioned, the Immigration Bill will require letting agents and landlords to carry out checks on potential tenants to ensure they have a right to live in the UK. This will involve looking at passports and other relevant documentation such as biometric residence permits. The government has said the checks should be “very simple” and in most cases agents or landlords will not need to contact the Home Office. Copies of the document will need to be taken and kept for 12 months so that they can be used as evidence that the checks have taken place.
Any agents or landlords that fail to carry out the immigration checks could be fined as much as £1,000 in the first instance and then up to £3,000 for any subsequent failures.
The Immigration Bill aims to reduce the number of people living in the UK without permission and to deter illegal immigrants. Commenting on the legislation, immigration and security minister James Brokenshire stated: “We are building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system or flout the law.
“The right to rent checks are quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here. They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.”
According to the government, 85 per cent of migrants who have been in the UK for less than a year live in the PRS and it is though that many of the illegal immigrants in the nation live in rented homes.
Letting agents and landlords across the country will be expected to carry out immigration checks from some point in 2015 that has not yet been announced. Before this, the process will be trialled in the West Midlands, with agents and landlords in the Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton areas required to make the checks from December 1st onwards. According to the Residential Landlords Association, the legislation will likely only apply to new tenancies that are agreed on or after this date. It is probable that the outcome of this trial will determine when the Bill is introduced nationwide.
It is safe to say the Immigration Bill has met with a negative reception from the PRS. Responses have varied from suggestions it will overburden letting agents and landlords, to claims it could represent a human rights infringement. However, the government seems set to press ahead with the plans and the industry must be prepared for it to come into force. In one sense, it could be argued the Bill represents an opportunity for letting agents, as landlords who are struggling to complete the checks themselves may turn to agencies. We can expect the impact of the legislation to become much clearer once the West Midlands trial gets underway.
Courtesty of Rentman, rman.co.uk