The third and final part of our series from Eligibility and Immigration expert Sue Lukes. Part 1 looked at which lettings and occupiers were covered by the new rules (which are being piloted ONLY in some parts of the West Midlands), Part 2 looked at how it will actually work. Here we consider what happens if it goes wrong …
What happens if things go wrong?
The scheme attracts civil penalties, set out on a sliding scale.
- The first breach (in the last three years) incurs a fine of £80 for a lodger, £1,000 for a rented occupier
- Further breaches incur fines of £500 per lodger and £3,000 per rented occupier
So a family of four adults would attract a first time penalty of £4,000.
The Home Office first issues
- a referral notice about the property and occupants, then
- an information request, which the landlord or agent can respond to, and finally
- the penalty notice,
after which the landlord has 28 days to object to the penalty.
Objections could be that
- the landlord is not liable (does not own the property or has made an agent liable),
- has a “statutory excuse” because he did the necessary checks and can prove it, or
- that the penalty is for the wrong amount.
If the penalty is applied, the landlord can get a discount of 30% on the first offence by paying within 21 days. He can also go to court to challenge it if he wishes.
How will the Home Office find out?
In practice they are unlikely to make any enforcement visits unless they have found out about the occupants from other sources (a workplace raid, follow up on an immigration application, jealous ex-boyfriend).
Or because the landlord has been identified as operating outside the law in other respects and information shared with the Home Office.
Who needs to worry about this now?
- Landlords and agents in the five areas of the West Midlands who need to get up to speed with the new law before December 1st 2014
- Local authorities in the five areas who are likely to face a lot of fallout
- people who might have been housed previously in the private rented sector are likely to go to the housing or social services authorities for help if they cannot get accommodation. This may well not be migrants but simply those who have trouble with documentation such as victims of domestic violence or other vulnerable people
- prospective tenants may allege discrimination against landlords and ask local authorities for help in dealing with this
- authorities will have to consider how they may want to take account of the legislation and its effects, including the extra potential for discrimination in any accreditation schemes they run
- organisations representing migrants will need to brief people about the new requirements and advise them about the documents they will need, how to deal with possible discrimination and what to do if they cannot get housed
- discrimination lawyers who might find a lot of work here
Sue will be speaking about these issues at the Landlord Law Conference on April 14 at Cambridge.
She also provides training for organisations (such as local authority officers) via our training company Easy Law Training – click here to find out more.