Know the immigration status of your tenants? Want to bet £3,000 on it?

Granting a residential tenancy for your investment property can seem straight-forward, but there are many pitfalls for landlords.  Soon there will be another hoop to jump through.  Edward Thompson, Associate Solicitor in the Commercial team at Blaser Mills deals with important points prior to granting a tenancy.

What are the most important things to do when granting an assured shorthold tenancy?

  • Make sure you deal with all your paperwork early on, and definitely before the tenancy starts.
  • There needs to be in place an up-to-date tenancy agreement that deals with costs, deductions, the length of the tenancy and how it can be brought to an end.
  • You need to secure the deposit in line with legislation – the penalties for landlords are onerous if you don’t.
  • Check tenants – make enquiries through an agent, or make your own enquiries.
  • Check in – instruct a reputable inventory clerk to record the condition of the property at the start.

So what’s new?

The Immigration Bill received Royal assent on 14th May 2014.  The Bill introduced a raft of new changes in immigration rules, but for landlords the most notable change is the introduction of a requirement for residential landlords or their agents to check prospective tenants’ immigration status before allowing them to rent a private property, sometimes referred to as the ‘right to rent’ prohibition.

If a landlord or agent fails to check the immigration status of a tenant, they may be fined by the Secretary of State a sum not to exceed £3,000.

Pilot Scheme

Since 1st December 2014, the scheme has been piloted by the Home Office in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.  This means that, before letting to them, property owners in those areas are now required to check that potential tenants have the right to live in the United Kingdom.

The Home Office has provided an on-line ‘right to rent’ tool allowing landlords to ascertain whether their property is affected, how to carry out the checks, and information on requesting an official check from the Home Office.  The Home Office has also provided a helpline telephone number and published a working draft Code of Practice for landlords on right-to-rent immigration checks.

The pilot was being evaluated in Spring 2015, and the Home Office expects a phased introduction into the rest of the United Kingdom later in 2015.