Landlords – Recent Changes and Proposals Relating to Migrants
7 August 2015 by James Bird
Recent amendments and additional powers proposed in the upcoming Immigration Bill are designed to help landlords evict illegal immigrants.
Checks in the private rented sector
Usually in the private rented sector, a new tenant would simply provide a credit check or some other evidence which proves that they are able to pay their rent. But since December 2014, changes under the Immigration Act 2014 (in particular part 3) have imposed new liabilities on landlords to ensure that a proposed tenant has a right to rent in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. This is then intended to be rolled out in 2015 under the current proposals for the upcoming Immigration Bill. To aid in implementing this, a Code of Practice has been issued by the Home Office to give additional information and guidance.
For all new tenancies starting on and after 1 December 2014 and for all tenants aged 18 and over, Landlords will now need to carry out checks to ensure a tenant has a right to reside in the UK. Usually this will be done by checking either the tenant’s passport or biometric residents permit beforehand, but in cases where there are ongoing applications with the Home Office, an online form will have to be submitted. Landlords will then have to keep a record of these documents and the information obtained for the duration of the tenancy and up to 1 year after the end of it. The National Landlords Association has published a brief summary of these obligations on its website.
It is not uncommon when letting for a landlord to use an agent to manage the property and deal with the paperwork for new tenants. In anticipation of this, the Immigration Act has also expanded liability for these checks to agents. However, for an agent to be liable, they must agree in writing with the landlord to accept this responsibility. This is vitally important as otherwise the landlord may remain liable despite the agent carrying out the checks. Penalties for a breach of these obligations include fines of up to £3000 per instance, but there are proposals in the upcoming Immigration Bill to include prison sentences of up to 5 years for repeat offenders.
Eviction of Immigrants
In addition to the above changes, there are proposals for a landlord’s power to evict tenants who do not have a right to remain, to be increased.
As the law currently stands, it is not possible for a landlord to simply bring a tenancy to an end and evict a tenant without a Court Order. Obtaining the required Court Order can be a long and tedious challenge itself and even once granted, only bailiffs can then evict the tenant (at the cost of the landlord).
The upcoming Immigration Bill is proposing changes which give landlords the power to terminate a tenancy. Firstly, there is the proposal to amend the Housing Act 1988 which currently governs the eviction of tenants. The additional power would work alongside this and give landlords a faster means of ending the tenancy. The second proposal is the issuing of legal notices from the Home Office which brings tenancies to an end, again being faster and more efficient than the current method.
With a clear clamp down on immigration being fresh on the minds of the public and in response to the “Calais Crisis” we will have to wait until Parliament returns in September to see the reaction to these significant proposals for landlords.
If you require Commercial Real Estate advice please contact Ellen Petersen on 01026 835210 or via email at [email protected].
If you require Immigration advice please contact Ashlee Campbell on 01206 835270 or via email at [email protected]