In her speech last March the Queen announced that private landlords would be responsible for checking that their prospective tenants are legally entitled to be in the country. Under the new Immigration Act 2014, landlords now need to see evidence of this such as a passport or a biometric residence permit.
As of 1st December 2014, these requirements are being rolled out gradually, initially in the West Midlands, and eventually across the whole of the UK. The Home Office has said that following an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands next spring, it is expected that this rule will be phased in gradually across the UK over the next year.
Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton are the first areas where this requirement has been imposed. As of today, landlords who fail to check whether prospective tenants are present in the UK legally, will potentially face a £3,000 fine.
When announced in March, we argued that this was an unfair reuirement as it could lead to discrimination by landlords against migrants in general, people of certain backgrounds, regardless of whether they have the right to live and work here. Further, it is unfair to ask private landlords, who have no relationship with the Home Office, to effectively become an extension of Border Control.
The Securities Minister James Brokenshire argues that the rule is intended to “act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.” In theory, the new requirements will ensure that landlords are not exploiting illegal immigrants by providing sub-standard accommodation to vulnerable people who have limited options of where to live.
However, the other point of view is that it may leave migrants homeless as it will dissuade landlords from renting to migrants in general. Mary Latham, the West Midlands representative for the National Landlords Association (NLA) has commented that ‘it is entirely conceivable that landlords could end up favouring “low-risk” tenants or those whose legal right to reside in the UK is clear-cut.” British nationals and European Nationals, we imagine would be amongst those considered to be”low-risk” tenants.
A Home Office spokeswoman has also pointed out that if a tenant doesn’t have their documents (i.e. passport/ Biometrics residence permit) due to an on-going Home Office application, landlords can request a check using a new ‘right to rent’ tool on the Home Office website.
If you have any queries regarding this, or any other of the recent changes in the UK, please contact us.