22 October 2014
The UK’s National Landlords Association (NLA) has updated its guidance on tenant checks ahead of a test piloting new immigration checks. From December 1st, a test scheme in the West Midlands will be introduced requiring landlords to check the immigration status of each new tenant. The obligation will be on the landlord to prove that the tenant has the ‘right to rent’ and has the correct UK immigration status before agreeing a tenancy. A failure to check tenants’ status may result in landlords facing a fine of up to £3,000. The new rules, set out in the Immigration Act 2014, will then be rolled out across the UK in 2015. The NLA recommends that landlords always vet tenants in order to reduce risks but is also now highlighting the potential liabilities that might result from letting to tenants without the requisite immigration status. “In some areas as early as this December, the Immigration Act will place a legal responsibility on landlords to help prevent illegal immigrants from accessing private rented accommodation,” NLA chairman Carolyn Uphill is quoted as saying in Property Wire. “It has always been best practice to conduct a thorough check on prospective tenants, but if landlords don’t do their due diligence on tenants they could be in line for a hefty penalty.” Letting agents are now therefore assessing their own processes for ensuring compliance, while a number of new immigration checking services are likely to come onto the UK market in the coming months. The Home Office has not yet issued specific compliance instructions but it is likely that British passport holders will need only to show their current passport and those without passports will have to produce alternative documents including birth or adoption certificate in combination with a National Insurance number, driving licence, naturalisation certificate or a right of abode certificate. Citizens of the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, are expected to show as evidence a passport and national identity card. People from other countries outside the EU should have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which clearly states the time limit on their stay albeit foreign visitors staying for less than six months are not currently able to obtain a BRP, and would need to show a passport containing a UK immigration stamp with a time limit that is still valid.