As many of you will know, the government is proposing placing obligations on private landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants before renting any property to them.
The governments proposals are set out in a consultation document and separate summary, and I have finally been able to find a bit of time to take a look at them.
The proposals do not appear, on the fact of it to be too onerous, and it will also be possible to outsource the work to letting agents and maybe other organisations who will then bear the responsibility of getting it right (although no doubt there will be a cost for this).
However it will undoubtedly increase the paperwork that landlords will need to keep, as meticulous records will be necessary.
What landlords will have to do
Before signing up a new tenant to a property and giving them the keys, a landlord will need to inspect, and keep a copy of, ID documentation, to prove that they are entitled to live in this country.
In most cases this will be a passport, but other documentation such as birth certificates, identity cards, driving licenses etc can also be used.
We are told that landlords will not be expected to detect fraud, unless it is obvious to the untrained eye (although this could be a contentious issue in itself) and will have a ‘statutory excuse’ if they have followed the procedure.
An enquiry service will be operated by the Home Office to help landlords.
The government point out that a similar exercise has been carried out by employers (including small employers similar to small landlords) since 1997.
What are the penalties?
There will be two classes of penalty – those for landlords making genuine mistakes (category A) which will be £1,000 per adult illegal non EEA migrant, and those for repeat offenders (category B) which will carry an increased penalty of £3,000.
There will be a 30% discount for payment within 21 days and stage payments will also be allowed.
HMO landlords will need to be particularly careful as their’ ‘record of compliance’ will be taken into account when considering whether they are a fit and proper person to hold an HMO license.
Some additional points
All landlords should read and consider at least the summary paper, but here are a few points that struck me when reading the documents.
- Landlords will not be required to monitor who is actually living in a property provided they ask questions and do checks on the persons they are told will be living at the property at the time it is let. They will not therefore be blamed if a tenant moves in illegal migrants without their knowledge.
- Once the initial checks have been made, landlords would only have to re-check if the tenant had limited leave to remain in this country
- If a landlord subsequently finds out that illegal immigrants are living in the property he just has to inform the authorities. He will not be required to evict them (which could be expensive).
- The regulations will not be limited to tenancies but would also apply to lettings on boats, caravans and indeed any situation where someone is renting a property to be their main home.
- However there is a list of excluded occupancies which include things like short term holiday lets, and circumstances where the occupants immigration status has already been checked, for example accommodation for employees and in university student accommodation.
- The government is also consulting on whether lodgers and sub tenants should be included within the scope of the regulations. If lodgers are included, there will be a separate lower scale of penalties.
When will it happen?
It is expected that legislation will be passed in the autumn after the end of the consultation period on 21 August and will come into force in 2014.
Copies of the consultation paper, the summary and the online survey (which can be used to reply to the consultation) can be found >> here.
I would strongly urge all landlords to read the paperwork and submit a response to the consultation. This is quite easy to do if you use the online form.