Immigration checks are coming – What do you need to know?

Many landlords carry out checks as a matter of course but from February, in England, Right to Rent checks become a legal requirement.

For most, background checks on new tenants are an expected part of the moving in process, but these are about to become law. New checks will be rolled out across the rest of the country at a later date. Landlords who fail to make these checks face a £3000 penalty per tenant. In addition if the Immigration Bill 2015, currently at a second reading, becomes law failure to carry out adequate checks will carry a potential prison sentence of up to five years. Landlords need to understand the process, but shouldn’t panic.

Why do I have to do more checks?11 jan Cairn

Many landlords make their own background checks already, so you might question the need for further investigation. The Right to Rent checks have been designed to help create a better letting industry. Checks only come into force for agreements starting after 1st February, and for now only in England. The aim is to give those who have the right to rent tenancy, and deter those who don’t.

Rogue landlords, who often rent sub-standard properties to illegal immigrants, will now face heavy penalties if caught. It’s hoped that the new structure will put pressure on these landlords to maintain properties to a suitable standard by removing the opportunity to rent to illegal residents, who often feel unable to complain.

Who do Right to Rent checks apply to?

text adviceLandlords, including those who sub-let or take lodgers, will be required to check that prospective tenants over the age of 18 have original documents showing the legal right to reside in the UK (either a UK or EEA passport, identity card, certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen, Home Office immigration status or residence card, or travel document showing indefinite right to remain.) It’s advisable to take a copy of all documentation should you need to produce these in future. In order to avoid any allegation of racial prejudice it’s advisable to carry out the same checks for every prospective tenant.

In a case where a tenant or prospective tenant has appealed a Home Office decision and is awaiting the outcome, or has an outstanding immigration application you can check the status through the government website here.

If the Immigration Bill 2015 is made law there’s the possibility that failure to carry out adequate Right to Rent checks will incur a five year prison sentence. This has caused concern for some small scale landlords, but shouldn’t. Robust checks that don’t discriminate, and consultation with the Home Office are key to avoiding discrimination.