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New law: Residential landlords or their agents must check tenants’ immigration status

Landlords of residential properties in England must check that prospective tenants, and/or anyone else they know will be occupying the property, have the right to live in the UK before letting to them, from 1 February 2016.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - January 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

The new rules apply to most residential lettings, whether under a lease or sub-lease, and to lodgers. There are, however, exemptions, including long leases and accommodation provided to an employee in connection with their employment.

The new rules do not apply to agreements entered into before the new rules come in, or on renewal of agreements in relation to a property where the parties remain the same.

Where a landlord uses a letting agency to let a property the obligation to comply with the rules is on the agency, not the landlord. There are civil and criminal sanctions for failure to comply, including fines of up to £3000 per occupier.

However, where a landlord uses an agent, or a tenant is sub-letting, it is sensible to record in writing exactly who is responsible for carrying out the checks.

The checks should be carried out on all potential occupiers over 18 - not just those that will appear on the tenancy agreement. ‘All’ means all - if landlords only check occupiers who appear ‘foreign’ they risk race discrimination claims being made against them.

Potential occupiers must produce evidence of their identity and citizenship, such as a passport. The landlord or agent must compare them against the tenant in person or via live video, record the date the check was made and keep copies until one year after the tenancy ends. The landlord or agent must not enter into a lease or licence with anyone they know or have reasonable cause to believe is not entitled to rent property in the UK.

If a tenant or occupier is only temporarily entitled to live in the UK, the landlord must note when that entitlement will expire and check their immigration status again on that date.

The Home Office has produced a free landlord’s guide available on the gov.uk website.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Residential landlords in England should ensure they are equipped to:
    • Check the immigration status of all potential tenants and any other occupiers they know about, or delegate that task to a letting agency
    • Record the dates that a tenant’s right to live in the UK will expire, so they can be rechecked

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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