Posts with tag: Immigration Act 2014

Tenants Being Rejected by Right to Rent Scheme

Published On: September 4, 2015 at 8:43 am


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,,

Landlords and letting agents are rejecting lawful prospective tenants in the pilot scheme of right to rent checks due to the unfamiliarity of some of the documents that must be checked.

A briefing note yesterday from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants describes the scheme as “dangerous.”

It believes that landlords and agents should not be treated as border control and that confusion over immigration documents is causing discrimination against renters.

It also warns that this confusion is not just within the pilot area, the West Midlands, but more widespread.

Under the right to rent scheme, which is due to be rolled out nationally soon, agents and landlords must check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, or face penalties, including up to five years in prison.

The briefing note has been published after two surveys, one for landlords and agents, and the other for tenants and lodgers. Of 76 responses, 31 were from agents and landlords.

Tenants Being Rejected by Right to Rent Scheme

Tenants Being Rejected by Right to Rent Scheme

The council also received further evidence, including 17 instances of discrimination and unfair refusal of tenancies and conducted a mystery shopping exercise.

One of the council’s main concerns is that checks are not being taken consistently, but are “instead directed at certain individuals who appear as if they may be a migrant.”

Half of respondents that were refused a tenancy felt that discrimination was a factor.

The council also noted widespread ignorance. Just 19% of agents and landlords nationwide were even aware of right to rent.

The briefing note highlights the fact that some landlords and agents are charging fees for conducting the checks and sometimes they pass on the cost of potential fines to the tenant through increased rent or deposits.

One third of respondents from the pilot area had been charged a handling fee of over £50 and 20% were charged more than £100.

The council states that right to rent “encourages discrimination and will create a hostile environment for all migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK seeking to access the private rental market.”

It continues: “Due to the current developments in Calais, we are now seeing a knee-jerk reaction from our Government who want to appear even tougher on illegal immigration through extending a dangerous scheme without proper consideration.”1

Responding to the briefing note, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) blames “the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into border police.”

It calls for the national roll out of the scheme to be delayed until the Government has published its own assessment of the pilot scheme in the West Midlands.

David Smith, the RLA Policy Director, says: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety.

“If the Government expects landlords and agents to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them.

“In the absence of such support, this research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy, which the RLA has long voiced concerns about.

“Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them.”

The Home Office has still not published its own assessment of the pilot scheme.

Smith continues: “It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the right to rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area.

“Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its roll out to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”1 


Forthcoming Changes to the PRS

The private rental sector in England is experiencing great change at present and landlords must be aware of all of their responsibilities.

The following measures are due to be implemented in the lettings industry imminently. Ensure you understand your duties.

  1. Section 21 changes

Section 21 notices will be soon be changing. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Anti-retaliatory eviction measures – These will restrict a landlord’s ability to serve a valid section 21 notice if the tenant has complained about the condition of the rental property and if the local authority has already served an improvement or similar notice to the landlord.

Property lawyer, Tessa Shepperson, comments: “This measure should not affect landlords who respond promptly to tenants and who keep properties in good condition. Local authority EHOs [Environmental Health Officers] are mostly overworked and do not have enough staff to deal properly with their case load, so are not going to want to waste resources on anything other than clear cases of bad practice.”

  • A new section 21 notice – Shepperson explains: “I have seen a draft of this, but no doubt it will be amended before the final version is released. This is really good news for landlords, as most of the problems in the past with section 21 evictions have been about the correct drafting of the notice.”
  • Forthcoming Changes to the PRS

    Forthcoming Changes to the PRS

    Additional preconditions for serving a section 21 notice – Currently, these requirements are compliance with tenancy deposit rules and having a license on a licensable House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The new conditions are: Installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and serving the tenant a gas safety certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and a copy of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s How to Rent guide.

  • Time limits – Landlords will not be able to serve a section 21 notice within the first four months of a tenancy and will not be able to issue proceedings regarding a notice more than six months after it was served.

The new section 21 measures are set to be implemented on 1st October 2015, but the preconditions and time limits will only apply to new tenancies created after this date.

  1. New health and safety rules

Landlords are required to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Local fire and rescue services have been given free alarms to offer to landlords, so it is worthwhile speaking to your local service.

  1. Right to rent checks

The right to rent checks were included in the Immigration Act 2014 and have been piloted in the West Midlands over the last six months.

It is believed that they will be rolled out nationwide, “as fast as the Government can manage it.” Shepperson adds: “New measures are also being planned for a new immigration act, which will involve harsher penalties for landlords who fail to carry out the checks, including imprisonment, and also the power to evict tenants without getting a court order first.”

  1. HMO licensing

“The Government has indicated that it is going to revisit mandatory licensing and widen the definition so more properties will come within it,” states Shepperson. “So if you manage a property that is an HMO but not a licensable one, this may change in the not too distant future.”1

  1. Penalties for rogue landlords

The Government has suggested that it will crack down on rogue landlords by introducing new penalties. The best thing to do to avoid these penalties is to act within the law and follow our advice.


Queen’s Speech Did Not Cover Compulsory Landlord Licensing

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech did not give details or even mention compulsory licensing of private landlords, which the Prime Minister pledged last week.

Website Nearly Legal has criticised the probable immigration laws, believing that the “full horror” is just setting in.

Nearly Legal says: “It is clear that the Government intends to use immigration law as an excuse to introduce some radical – and conceptually awful – reforms to housing law… New laws will mean that a tenancy will automatically end if the tenant is unlawfully present (e.g. if their visa ends) and there will be steps taken to make it easier to evict illegal immigrants.

“The full horror of this last part is just sinking in. Leaving aside the utter unreality of expecting landlords to understand immigration law, how on earth can a tenancy be ended because of a transitory personal status?

“This is going to be a disastrous legislative programme doing untold damage to the interests of landlords, tenants and housing law itself. The only clear winners from this will be the lawyers.”1 

The Queen’s Speech only briefly mentioned immigration controls regarding right to rent, with David Cameron proposing licensing for private landlords only days ago.

Some property experts are wondering if this will mean a new national registration scheme for landlords, whether it will include letting agents and if it would be a part of local licensing schemes.

Queen's Speech Did Not Cover Compulsory Landlord Licensing

Queen’s Speech Did Not Cover Compulsory Landlord Licensing

However, not all local authorities have licensing schemes in place other than the mandatory House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) system. Currently, landlords must have an HMO license if their rental property has three storeys or more, is shared by five or more people in over one household and if the tenants share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) believes that the a new scheme would cause problems: “While seeming to dispel concerns over a general, national landlord licensing requirement, a great many homes and landlords not currently covered by local additional licensing schemes could find themselves caught under a new mandatory scheme.

“This will also place local authorities under substantial pressure as they will have to process the large number of applications for new licenses, assess the properties and carry out further enforcement against those who have not sought licenses.

“Given that, as the RLA has highlighted, current enforcement is often patchy, a new further area of enforcement work may make the situation worse rather than better.”1

Despite a licensing scheme not yet apparent, it appears that the Queen’s Speech hinted at all landlords and letting agents soon having to carry out immigration status checks on tenants.

Legal expert David Smith comments: “It is clear that the right to rent scheme will be rolled out fairly rapidly and there was an oblique reference to a mandatory licensing scheme for landlords.

“This is of great concern, but until more details are available it is not clear whether this is a new licensing scheme, as is about to be introduced in Wales, or something smaller such as widening of current HMO licensing provisions.”1

Chief Executive of estate agency Spicerhaart, Paul Smith, is also concerned over the roll out of immigration checks: “The policy issue underlying these new rules is tackling illegal immigration into the UK – a laudable aim – but passing this task onto landlords, and inevitably letting agents acting in their best interests, is misplaced.

“Landlords and letting agents are not border control agents and adding another layer to the administration means agent fees will increase, as all checks and referencing are labour and time intensive. Ultimately, the tenant pays the price.”1 



Will Right to Rent Checks Roll Out?

Published On: May 12, 2015 at 9:00 am


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,

Will Right to Rent Checks Roll Out?

Will Right to Rent Checks Roll Out?

Now that we know the Conservatives have formed a majority government, those in the private rental sector are questioning whether right to rent checks will roll out across the country.

Pilot immigration checks were introduced in the West Midlands and oblige landlords and letting agents to conduct document checks on potential tenants to determine if they have the right to rent in the UK.

If an agent manages a property on behalf of a landlord, the agent is liable under the Immigration Act 2014.

The previous coalition government launched the regulations into the region last December, proposing a roll out across the country in 2015. It is thought that this could happen as soon as this summer.

The rules of the pilot in the West Midlands included landlords or agents checking the immigration status of hopeful tenants for all new tenancy agreements. Usually, this would just mean checking a tenant’s passport. They must then keep records of these checks for 12 months after the tenancy ends.

Agents and landlords can use an online form to request a check, receiving results within two working days.

The rules also apply to those taking in lodgers and tenants who sub-let their rental property. Failure to comply with the regulations can lead to a £3,000 fine.

The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) compiled a checklist for those in the West Midlands, which would apply to landlords and agents around the country if the rules roll out.

The points are as follows:

  1. Check if your property is affected by using the Home Office online tool, found here:
  2. Read the Home Office Code of Practice, found here:
  3. Review your letting agent terms, conditions and contracts to ensure the landlord’s, tenant’s and agent’s responsibilities are clear.
  4. Review your working procedures so that you have enough time to conduct the checks and that records are kept and actions taken if necessary.
  5. Review the wording of tenancy agreements.
  6. Confirm responsibilities in writing between landlord and letting agent.
  7. Call the Home Office advice line on 0300 069 9799 for advice and information.


Landlord Angry at Media Coverage of Right to Rent Checks

Published On: February 17, 2015 at 11:57 am


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,,

A landlord has taken to the Landlord Referencing forum to discuss her concerns over media coverage of right to rent checks.

Mary Latham identified a specific story published in the Independent on Sunday that made her “really cross.”

She explained that the story made it seem that landlords are “shunning foreigners because of their accents,” due to the Immigration Act 2014.

The article stated: “Landlords are preparing to turn away tenants just because they have a foreign accent, as a consequence of new rules making it an offence to let rooms to illegal migrants.

Landlord Angry at Media Coverage of Right to Rent Checks

Landlord Angry at Media Coverage of Right to Rent Checks

“The new rules are already leading landlords to discriminate between applicants on the basis of their background, according to campaigners scrutinising the pilot scheme in the Midlands, where the policy is being tested before being rolled out nationally.

“The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is surveying landlords and tenants in the pilot area, where the rules have been in force since December 2014.

“It found that tenants are now being charged an extra £100 in administration fees, and landlords admitted they are less likely to offer a viewing to anyone who needed time to produce their paperwork.”1

Mary responded by describing the accompanying photograph to the article. She says that it was taken “in a road that I know very well, and where students from the University of Birmingham occupy most of the properties.”

She then explained that 10.5% of students at the University are from overseas, and are “welcomed by landlords.” She says she has not witnessed “evidence of discrimination and landlords have been letting since December, when right to rent legislation began in Birmingham for the academic year, which begins in September.”

Mary details how the changes affect landlords: “Landlords must take a copy of a document which shows that a prospective tenant has the legal right to be in the UK and we cannot discriminate; overseas visitors, particularly students, are used to producing their documents, and have no problem in doing so, therefore it is very unlikely that they will need time to produce their paperwork.

“In fact, from my experience it is more likely that a person who was born in the UK will not have the document to prove it, or at least will not have the document with them at viewing, and this may well cause delays for them while they send home for a birth certificate or similar document.

“The legislation is new and it will take time for tenants born in the UK to become used to carrying documents. It is because landlords are not discriminating that problems may occur and it certainly has nothing at all to do with applicants having foreign accents.”

She says that it is media coverage such as the Independent on Sunday article that “causes issues between landlords/letting agents and tenants, and it’s time that the media behaved in a more responsible way.”

She calls for more proof: “If and when there is evidence, I mean facts and figures, which show that overseas visitors cannot access the private rented sector, we would need to address the problem, but at this moment in the first roll out areas of the West Midlands there is not a problem, and we don’t need the media to cause one.”

Mary explains what she has done to help: “I have spoken at several events in the West Midlands, and I have run nine seminars to explain what landlords need to do to comply with this legislation, and at none of these events have landlords spoken about refusing overseas visitors; once they understood the legislation, landlords made plans to change their tenant referencing process to comply.”1

Right to rent checks are expected to roll out nationwide this year.


Private UK Landlords Required to Check Immigration Status

Published On: November 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm


Categories: Landlord News


The requirements for landlords renting out a private property stated in the Immigration Act 2014 are steadily being introduced.

From 1st December, landlords will be obliged to conduct checks regarding a tenant’s immigration status. This will be required at the beginning of a new tenancy agreement, and throughout their lease.

A trial of the new rules will begin in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, and Sandwell. It is believed that the rest of the country will follow in 2015.

The majority of residential tenancies will be affected by the Act, however, it will not apply to student accommodation, tenancies over seven years, social housing, or tenancy agreements that begun before the Act came into force, or which are later renewed, considering there is not a break in occupation.

The checks will put added pressure on landlords, as the failure to comply could lead to fines. Existing and prospective landlords should fully understand the rules, and create a strategy of how they will observe them.

These measures are designed to aid the Government’s clamp down on landlords who offer unacceptable or illegal rental accommodation.

Landlords who do not comply with the checking guidelines will face fines of up to £3,000 for repeat offending, with no right of appeal. The Home Office have issued a draft code of conduct on civil penalties for landlords and their agents.

The requirements are placed on landlords who must assess tenant documentation to determine whether they have a right to rent. Follow up checks must also be conducted, particularly if a specific tenant’s right to live in the UK is time limited.

Private UK Landlords Required to Check Immigration Status

Private UK Landlords Required to Check Immigration Status

If a landlord’s checks reveal that a tenant does not have a right to rent, then they must report to the Home Office. If they are unsure, landlords can request a rent check through the Home Office’s Landlord’s Checking Service. If a landlord takes this route, they will have a statutory defence for the first 12 months against a penalty, if the Home Office allow them to go through with a tenancy.

If the Home Office announce that the landlord cannot rent out the property to this tenant, then the landlord will be required to file a report with the Home Office; failing to comply with this will potentially result in a fine.

If agreed, responsibility can be transferred to a letting or managing agent. Any agency agreement a landlord has should be reviewed before this occurs. However, it is probably that an agent will charge for conducting the checks.

Those who have a right to rent are: British citizens, nationals of an EEA state, Swiss nationals, and those with leave to enter and remain in the UK; as long as the leave does not prohibit renting UK property.

Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire has stated that the checks should be quick and simple, however, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has expressed their worries over the pressure placed on landlords in monitoring immigration.

The Home Office has noted that the checks may result in landlords benefitting from a lower loss of rental income. However, it is feared that the administration involved may be arduous.

Landlords must conduct checks every year throughout the tenancy term, and must store the information from tenants in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Some have voiced their concerns that the checks could lead to landlords favouring British citizens.

It is thought that the nationwide introduction of the Act will not occur until the general election has passed, however, landlords should consider how they would observe the Act’s requirements.