24 Oct 2016, 37 mins ago

The government announced this week that all private landlords in England are to conduct right to rent checks regarding their prospective tenants from 1 February 2016. The landlords will be oblige to check whether their prospective tenants have a right to remain in the UK before agreeing to rent out their property to them.

The so-called “Right to rent” checks were introduced by the Immigration Act 2014. Under section 22 of the Act a landlord must not authorise an adult to occupy premises under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is British, EEA or Swiss national or has a right to rent in the UK, i.e. they are lawfully present in the UK in accordance with immigration laws. The checks were first made compulsory in parts of the West Midlands (Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton) from 1 December 2014. Following implementation of the scheme in one part of the country the government now announced a national wide launch for the checks early next year.

Landlords who fail to make “Right to rent” checks are faced with a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant. All private landlords will be covered by the requirement, this will include also landlords who sub-let their properties or even take in lodgers.

The landlords will have to check the identity documentation for all potential tenants and take a copy of the same to have a defence (“statutory excuse”) to avoid a civil penalty. Depending on a nationality and permission to stay in the UK the landlords, in some instances, will have to conduct regular checks of the documentation of their tenants even if the checks were done in the first instance. This is the case, for example, with any tenants who have limited permission to stay in the UK. The landlords will be obliged to conduct follow up checks to make sure that they have extended their leave in the UK and are still lawfully present in the UK and therefore have a right to rent a property.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:

“Right to rent checks are quick and simple, and many responsible landlords already do them as a matter of routine. We are providing landlords in England with all the advice and support they need before the checks go live on 1 February 2016.”

Despite the statement you could not help but wonder whether landlords would find it easier and simpler to choose to rent their properties to people who have British or EEA or Swiss passports rather than to migrants with limited leave to remain or especially to those, who are lawfully in the UK but whose applications are still under consideration with the Home Office past the date of the validity of their visa. Alternatively the landlords will be under an additional obligation, thus potentially liable to civil penalty, if they don’t conduct the follow up checks and make sure that their tenant(s) still lawfully in the UK and therefore have right to rent. Of course the landlords may agree in writing with an agent to conduct such checks, for example, their estate agent, however, this no doubt would mean additional fees and expenses for them.

It may be beneficial for the government to involve private individual such as landlords in maintaining effective immigration control in the country, however, it is far from certain that this would not mean that migrants, who are absolutely lawfully present in the UK, will not be left at disadvantage in respect of finding a property to rent because of the additional burdens imposed on landlords because of their immigration status.