UK Landlords must team up with the Home Office!
Starting from 1 February 2016, all UK landlords will have to check if their tenants have a right to rent in the UK as part of the larger scheme of tightening immigration policies. If anyone without a right to rent is found renting a place for residential purpose, the landlord will be penalised for an amount up to £3,000.
Who have the right to rent and who don’t?
Basically, all British, EEA and Swiss nations have the right to rent, as well as other nationals who have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. For people who have a leave to remain for only a limited duration, they have a limited right to rent. Anyone who needs leave to enter the UK but was never granted one will have no right to rent, unless allowed by the Secretary of State.
When does the liability arise and how to avoid?
Landlords, including tenants who wish to sub-let their premises, have to make sure that the tenant and all adult-occupiers have a right to rent at all material time during the tenancy duration. Therefore, there are two scenarios which give rise to a liability:
- A tenancy entered into, and at the time of entry, that grants a right to occupy the premise to a tenant, or anyone named or unnamed in the tenancy that has no right to rent.
- A tenant, or anyone named or unnamed in the tenancy, who only has a limited right to rent, remains in the premise after his/her leave has expired.
In order to avoid such liability from arising, landlords have to check the identity documents, such as passports or residence permits from the tenant and all potential adult-occupiers. Landlords have to check the validity of their document in the presence of the tenants and occupiers, then make a photocopy or e-copy of those documents, and lastly record the date when the check is conducted.
If the tenant or the occupier has a right to rent, there is no need for the landlord to perform the check again during the tenancy. However, if the person only has a limited right to rent, landlords should check their document again 12 months after the beginning of the tenancy or 28 days before the expiry of the document, whichever sooner.
In order to escape from the liability, landlords must show that they have exercised reasonable care when checking the document, or that an agent should be responsible for the mistake instead.
Being consistent with the tightening immigration policies, this new requirement for landlords is an attempt to get citizens working with the Home Office to alleviate the problem of illegal immigration. Apart from adding a seemingly trivial duty to the landlords, the requirement may stir up some other problems.
First, the risk of ethnic discrimination may increase as a result. In order to keep their burden to the minimum, landlords may prefer having British, EEA and Swiss nationals as their tenants instead of people from other countries, such as Asians or Africans, so that they will never have to conduct any check again. This may create unequal treatment based on the ground of ethnicity, and thus constitutes an offence under the Equality Act 2010.
Besides, the price of the rental market may go up a bit in general. Since most of the landlords pay for property agents to complete all the procedures for them, this additional burden may become a reason for property agents to increase their commission. This seems particularly probable when landlords are provided with the statutory excuse of displacing their liability to agents with full authorisation. Property agents will have to conduct extra work to check also the right of rent of every adult-occupier of the premise, in addition to the tenant. Therefore, increase in commission seems more likely than not.
If you have any questions in relation to the new policy and its potential impacts, or require assistance in carrying these checks please feel free to contact a member of our UK immigration team on 020 3318 5794 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.