Landlords across the country will be affected by new legislation which comes into force next month.
Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 takes effect from 1st February 2016 making it illegal for private landlords to let their properties to anyone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.
Landlords who breach the new rules may be liable for civil penalties of up to £3,000.
Carole Charge, technical and compliance director at property specialist Leaders, says: “The introduction of this legislation follows a pilot scheme undertaken in the West Midlands during 2015. There are concerns that the government has made the transition from one small pilot area to nationwide implementation instead of the gradual region by region introduction originally proposed with no certainty that the Home Office has sufficient infrastructure and staff to support the high level of queries the blanket introduction of this legislation will inevitably bring forth, particularly when considering the high penalty that could be imposed on the unwary landlord.
“Landlords will need to familiarise themselves with these requirements - which are very prescriptive - and follow them to the letter. If they are using the services of a professional agent to let their property, everything should be taken care of for them. The new legislation applies to all new tenancy agreements from 1st February for tenants and permitted occupants aged 18 and over.”
All landlords – or their agent - must conduct initial right to rent checks before authorising an adult to rent their property. These checks can only be undertaken and recorded up to 28 days prior to the tenancy agreement coming into effect.
The checks entail meeting any potential adult tenant with their original versions of one or more acceptable documents - such as a passport, permanent residence card or current immigration status document – and checking and keeping copies of the documents to confirm whether the prospective tenant has an unlimited right to rent, a time-limited right to rent or no right to rent.
In cases where there is a time-limited right to rent landlords must conduct follow-up checks at the appropriate date. Should follow-up checks indicate the occupant no longer has a right to rent in the UK, the landlord – or their agent - must make a report to the Home Office. A civil fine of £3,000 can be imposed on any landlord failing to do so.
“Even when renting a property to British, EEA or Swiss nationals, all of whom have an unlimited right to rent, a landlord is still required to carry out the necessary checks and retain copies of the appropriate documents, so this legislation will affect every landlord who starts a new tenancy after 1st February,” explains Carole.
“If you use an agent to find your tenants, you should make sure that they are up to speed with these new requirements and have brought in the necessary procedures to comply with them on your behalf. All our landlords can rest assured that this is the case at Leaders; any tenant we approve for a tenancy will have undergone the appropriate checks to confirm they have the correct visa or documentation required to rent here.”
For more information on landlord legislation contact your local Leaders branch to speak to an expert.