Earlier this week, the Home Office announced new provisions under the Immigration Act 2016 for landlords and letting agents.
Failure to comply with the Right to Rent scheme will become a criminal offence for landlords and letting agents on 1st December 2016.
The Home Office explained that the new criminal offences have been created to deal with rogue landlords and letting agents that knowingly, or with reasonable cause to believe, let to illegal migrants.
Under the new provisions, it will also be easier to evict illegal migrant tenants.
New Provisions Under Immigration Act for Landlords and Letting Agents
The Right to Rent scheme was first implemented in parts of the West Midlands on 1st October 2014, before being expanded across the rest of England from 1st February 2016. The Home Office claims that it will be extended to the rest of the UK in “due course”.
Under the civil penalties currently in place, landlords or letting agents that fail to make the relevant immigration checks are liable for a fine of up to £3,000 per illegal migrant tenant.
At present, if a landlord finds that an existing tenant is an illegal migrant, they cannot evict them from the property.
The new provisions will enable landlords to evict illegal migrant tenants more easily, and in some circumstances, without a court order. Landlords will obtain a notice issued by the Home Office, which confirms that the tenant is disqualified from renting in the UK as a result of their immigration status. On receipt of this, the landlord will be expected to take action to ensure that the illegal migrant leaves the property.
The Government has also introduced four new criminal offences to target rogue landlords and letting agents that exploit migrants and consistently flout the law by failing to conduct Right to Rent checks, or failing to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their property.
These landlords or agents may face a fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, both, or a fine and imprisonment and further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
However, the Act also offers a defence against the offences for landlords who have taken reasonable steps within a reasonable timeframe in seeking to terminate a tenancy involving an illegal migrant.
The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, comments on the new provisions: “We are clear that illegal immigrants should not be able to access or remain in private rented accommodation, preventing lawful residents from finding a home.
“We know the vast majority of landlords are diligent in their responsibilities when it comes to their tenants, and we want to help them to be able to evict illegal immigrants more easily.
“But unscrupulous landlords and agents who exploit migrants and who repeatedly fail to carry out Right to Rent checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrants from their property will find they could now face going to jail.”
The Managing Director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), David Cox, also responds to the announcement: “We are pleased to have a date for implementation; this goes some way towards addressing the issues revealed by Right to Rent checks since their implementation earlier in the year. If these measures prove to be effective in tackling rogue landlords who offer overcrowded and poor quality housing, it will be positive.
“Letting agents need to remember the new rules mean if they do flout the law, their company will be liable to pay a £3,000 civil penalty per occupier who is an illegal over-stayer, and they may be personally liable to an unlimited fine, as well as the potential of up to five years in prison.”
The Government’s factsheet can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537218/Immigration_Act_-_Part_2_-_Residential_Tenancies.pdf