NEWS

Immigration checks tighten for private rental sector

Published September 30th, 2014

Property owners with residential accommodation to let should be aware of new immigration legislation coming into force in October.

The Immigrations Act 2014 will require landlords to make careful checks on tenants that are not UK or EU citizens to prevent illegal immigrants accessing the private rental sector. Failure to conduct proper immigration checks could result in a fine of up to £3,000.

“It is good practice for landlords to always fully reference potential tenants, checking their I.D. to make sure they are who they say they are,” explained Laurence Tebb, letting manager with Berrys based at Northwich in Cheshire.

“However,  the Immigration Act also requires that landlords or their agents should  check the tenant’s immigration ‘status’ and whether or not they are allowed to live in the UK,” he said.

When conducting initial checks on a prospective tenant, Berrys recommends that you ask to see their passport or driving licence for photographic identification, visas and proof of residency, such as a current utility bill (council tax, water, gas/electricity).

“Bank statements or phone bills should not be accepted as proof of residency as the document holder would not have had to prove where they lived when they applied for a bank account or mobile phone,” he advised.

It is also vital to check if the prospective tenant’s visa has a time limit.

row-of-houses

“First and foremost, do not give your tenant an initial six-month month contract if their visa is due to expire in four months of the tenancy start date,” Laurence pointed out.

“Also, if an existing tenant asks for another fixed-term tenancy because their employment contract has been extended you must obtain proof of this before any tenancy extension is carried out.

“It is also important to check that the tenancy contract doesn’t lapse onto a periodic tenancy and then exceed the visa end date. If the visa does have an end date, diarise the date so that mistakes are not made. “

The new legislation aims to prevent illegal immigrants accessing the private rented sector and does not apply to the social housing sector.

Landlords and letting agents could be fined up to £3,000 for not conducting proper immigration checks but if they do come across a tenant without the proper documentation and decide NOT to proceed, they are under no legal obligation to report it,” Laurence said.

“However, if an existing tenant requests a tenancy extension but they cannot prove they are eligible to remain in the UK it is a legal obligation for the landlord or letting agency to report this. Failure to do so could result in a fine.”

For more details on this act or for a chat about letting your property contact Laurence Tebb at the Northwich office of Berrys on 01606 49200 or email laurence.tebb@berrys.uk.com