In an effort to clamp down on illegal immigration, the UK government has introduced new rules that put landlords in the hot seat if they neglect to conduct necessary checks to confirm whether or not prospective tenants are British citizens. Landlords will face a possible £3,000 penalty if they fail to comply with the rules.
Landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton will be the first who have to comply with new rules. In most cases, they will be able to find the necessary information and fulfil their obligation by checking passports or permits, photocopying the documents and keeping the copies. It’s not necessary for them to use the government website to check whether the prospective tenant is legally permitted to be in the country.
Occasionally there may be legitimate reasons for a tenant not being able to produce the correct documentation. If this is the case, landlords can request a check by using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the Home Office website.
Under the new rule, known as the Immigration Act 2014, prospective tenants are obliged to give their landlords with an official form of identification, either a biometric residence permit or a passport, in order to rent property anywhere in the UK. The Home Office website provides a list of alternative documents acceptable to use in the case of a discrepancy and bureaucracy.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has voiced concern about the stricter rules, stating that onerous identity restrictions could lead to undue discrimination against foreigners unless the right to reside was clear-cut. What’s more, immigrants are often easy targets in their first few days or weeks in the country and could have had their bags – and identification – stolen while drifting through backpackers hostels. Instead of landlords cutting them some slack, they might turn them away in favour of tenants with all their documentation in order. The NLA has advised all property owners to look at the Home Office’s guidance on unlawful discrimination and the Code of Practice to make sure that they are familiar with the list of acceptable documents to use in order to verify a tenant’s immigration status in the UK.
The pilot programmes in the West Midlands will run until spring, after which it will be evaluated and then phased in throughout the rest of the UK over the course of 2015.
Featured image "Row of four new-build" via Lydia