As if landlords don’t already have enough on their plates, they are soon to be responsible for carrying out initial and subsequent periodic immigration checks on their tenants, under the ‘Right to Rent’ code of practice championed by the government. Failure to comply with this new legislation that is likely to be introduced from September 2015 may result in landlords being fined thousands of pounds or even given prison sentences.
Right to Rent has been road tested in the West Midlands since just before Christmas 2014 and one landlord in the region has been fined almost £2,000. Landlords in Birmingham and surrounding areas must check the visa status and nationality of each of their tenants and could be fined for each tenant who has no right to be in the country let alone the property.
Landlords already face a barrage of additional legislative expenses, so nobody can blame those who feel that Right to Rent is just yet another financial hurdle, which would cause some to sell up. It’s also fair enough if some residential landlords perceive the required immigration checks and monitoring as something the government and its agencies should be doing. After all, landlords aren’t experts and we can all let things slip through the net, so being landed a significant fine or even a jail term really doesn’t seem fair for what could seem like free labour.
We can also sense that it will be difficult for landlords to balance carrying out the immigration checks with ensuring they don’t come across as discriminatory on racial grounds. Again, this is an area many landlords would rightly prefer not to be thrust into.
Many landlords are busy people, so although we do appreciate why the government wants to clamp down on illegal tenants, the responsibility of ensuring that tenants renew their visas and that the Home Office is contacted if a previously legal tenant’s situation changes seems too onerous.
Landlords are encouraged to keep a record of steps they take so they can prove that all reasonable measures have been carried out. A range of providers are able to carry out checks on behalf of landlords, who are advised to obtain advice from their lettings agent.