West Midlands first to check tenants ‘right to rent’

The Immigration Act 2014 has introduced a new scheme to ensure landlords are checking the immigration status of tenants.

Big Ben With UK FlagsThe scheme, which commences its pilot on 1 December 2014 in the West Midlands, aims to protect landlords from liability if the legality of a tenants’ residence comes into question. When a potential resident shows interest in a property, the landlord or agent must make sure they have all the relevant background information on the individual before signing a contract.

If the landlord or agent fails to complete suitable checks or is aware they have let a property to a person who does not have the right to live in the UK, he or she could face a fine of up to £3,000 for each person found to be living in the property.

Landlords and agents should also be aware that if a tenant fails to notify them about a change in their residency status, it would not act as a defence to a landlord or agent if no efforts were made to check the tenant’s status. These checks will only apply to new tenancy agreements entered into on or after 1 December 2014. The law also makes it clear that tenancies, which begin before the start date but are renewed after 1 December 2014 will not fall within the new requirements.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has shown their concerns regarding this new scheme calling it an “inappropriate delivery mechanism”. They fear that it will create too much paperwork and may cause unintended problems, about which they raised concerns  throughout the process. RICS have made calls for clear and accessible help and support for landlords and agents, as well as fair application and a formal review of the new arrangements after twelve months, in order to see if the policy is achieving its targets.

Although the scheme has not come into effect it has already gained many critics and supporters. A report into the pilot will be made after six months to deal with any concerns regarding the scheme, after which the government hopes to extend it across the UK. However the scheme will go, it’s a positive step to run the pilot before rolling it out nationwide. 

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