Landlords will face heavy penalties if any illegal immigrants are found to be living in their properties from December 1st.

BEWARE Landlords in the Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton areas, from December 1st, it is your responsibility to ensure that any tenant you rent to, has the right to be in the UK, by checking their immigration status. Failure to identify anyone occupying your home, whether the tenant or not, can result in fines of up to £3000 per occupant.

This is a trial being run to see how the industry copes with the checking responsibility and it is intended to sift out people looking for accommodation, that are illegal immigrants, and the system will operate very similar to the requirements imposed on employers currently, which has been running for some time now.

In the trial area, any landlord (a landlord is a person granting a tenancy and is not restricted to the owner) must check the residential status of any occupiers of their property that are over 18, even if they are not names on the tenancy.

From December 1st, if you pay your council tax within the areas stated, then you  must ascertain on what basis the tenant has right to occupy property in the UK, if at all.

Landlords will need to identify any potential applicant on where they fit in any of the following categories:

Unlimited right to rent

There are two groups of people who have an unlimited right to rent. These are:

i. British citizens, EEA and Swiss nationals1; and

ii. People who have the right of abode in the UK, or who have been granted indefinite leave to remain or have no time limit on their stay in the UK .

A limited right to rent in the UK

Those who are not British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals will have a time-limited right to rent if they have valid leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period of time; or they are entitled to enter or remain in the UK as a result of an enforceable right under European Union law

Those with no right to rent

A person is not permitted to occupy residential accommodation if they require permission to be in the UK and do not have it. This means they do not have the right to rent in the UK.

Those with a discretionary right to rent

The Secretary of State may grant someone a right to rent in the UK on a discretionary basis, even though their immigration status would otherwise leave them with no right to rent. A landlord will not be liable for a civil penalty if they authorise accommodation for use as an only or main home by an adult who has been granted a discretionary right to rent.

To check immigration statuses, you must ask and take copies of the passport, or identification documents, look for any visa or permits to occupy in the UK and familiarise yourself with what is acceptable and what is not. Remember to take copies as proof of your due diligence, which is a defence.

Although landlords are not expected to be “experts” we are expected to use common sense and make ourselves aware of what we are presented with, an obvious forged document would not be suitable defence. More vigilance in checking the passport photos, ages, sex, date of birth and how this tallies with the rest of the application, does the story fit, is the person in front of you the age it states on the passport for example.

Landlords, sub letters and agents can all be held responsible dependant on the tenancy and agreements in place and the fines vary dependant on whether it is an exclusive tenancy or a live in landlord arrangements, and the fines will also increase for repeat offenders, as they are running a two tier fine system.

The scheme applies to various tenancy types including:

Landlords (both businesses and individuals) who let self-contained accommodation with a lease or tenancy agreement;

Occupiers (including those in social housing) who sub-let their accommodation, who will be landlords for the purposes of the Scheme, and

Live in Landlords or occupiers who take in lodgers to share their accommodation with a licence to occupy the property.

The Penalties

On a breach being ascertained, the Home Office will consider the nature of the breach to determine the final penalty amount per occupier. If the breach is in relation to a lodger in a private household, the landlord will be subject to the relevant Category A penalty amount (£80 or £500). If the breach is in relation to an occupier in private rental accommodation, the landlord will be subject to the relevant Category B penalty amount (£1,000 or £3,000). The higher amounts of both categories becoming applicable on repeat offences.

The Immigration office want s this to work and has set up a helpline for landlords and agents to call, for assistance on 0300 069 9799 plus there is further information and examples of acceptable forms of identification that can be found on the government website HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/365711/landlords_code_of_practice.pdf

In relation to the pending trial, Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said:

“We are building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system or flout the law and Landlords in the West Midlands will have all the advice and support they need in advance of the checks going live on 1 December”.