One of the many responsibilities private landlords have is to make sure that prospective tenants (and in some cases current tenants) are legally allowed to live in the UK. This obligation came into force on 1st February 2016 under the Immigration Act 2014. If landlords fail to carry out the correct checks, it could lead to hefty fines.
The Immigration Act 2016, which came into force on 1st December 2016, took this one step further. It is now a criminal offence if a landlord knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that a house is occupied by someone without the right to live in the UK. A similar offence is created for agents. Those found guilty can face up to five years in prison, so this responsibility must be taken seriously. However it is a defence if a landlord has taken reasonable steps, within a reasonable timeframe, to terminate the tenancy if they discover or suspect something is wrong.
The aims of these changes are to stop people who have no legal right to live in the UK from living in housing that people with a legitimate right to live here need. However Home Office guidance has made it very clear that landlords must not discriminate against prospective tenants on the grounds of nationality. If they do discriminate they risk falling foul of the Equality Act 2010.
More welcome for landlords, is that the Immigration Act 2016 makes it easier for landlords to recover possession when it’s occupied by someone who doesn’t have a right to live in the UK. Landlords can begin possession proceedings after providing two weeks’ notice through the correct legal process.
A landlord can also terminate a residential tenancy agreement if they receive notice from the Home Office that the people living there don’t have the right to live in the UK. In these circumstances, the landlord’s notice is enforceable as if it were an order of the High Court. It means no possession order is required and High Court enforcement officers can evict residents. This process may be quicker and cheaper than pursuing possession through the courts.
Further guidance is expected from the Home Office on the Immigration Act 2016, so landlords should ensure they stay up to date with developments to keep both themselves and their tenants compliant.