Immigration Bill: How should you be advising your buy-to-let landlords?

As of next year, it’s expected the Government will introduce an Immigration Bill, which requires all of the UK private rented sector (PRS) to perform a screening process on prospective tenants, to ensure they have permission to reside within the country.

Though it’s likely many of your buy-to-let landlords will already be carrying out such checks, are you ensuring this is happening in all cases? We strongly suggest you advise your clients and prepare them for the expected changes.

The new legislation is yet to be finalised, however the Government have released information detailing the foreseen requirements.

All prospective changes are likely to affect:

  • Landlords renting property to those living within the UK, may include those renting to people living within the landlord’s property.
  • Letting agents acting on behalf of landlords to find tenants or manage properties.
  • Tourist accommodation providers with guest who stay longer than 3 months.
  • Prospective tenants who wish to live anywhere within the UK in future.

Not all rental applicants will need to be screened, only those who the landlord has chosen to live within the property, before they move in. This will include all residents, not simply those who pay the rent or have signed the tenancy agreement. All children will be exempt.

Further proposed exemptions from the new scheme include:

  • Local Authority social housing.
  • Private rental property let to those under the homelessness legislation.
  • Accommodation provided to employees.
  • Tourist accommodation with guests who stay less than three months.
  • Short term business or holiday lets (less than three month terms).
  • Commercial use rental properties.
  • Hostels and refuges providing crisis accommodation to vulnerable people
  • Healthcare facilities.
  • Educational and children’s accommodation.

Identification documentation will be required from tenants and landlords will need to retain copies for 12 months, as proof of the screening process being completed. Those with a British passport will need to present them. However tenants without a valid passport may produce alternative documentation, as listed below:

  • Birth certificate
  • Adoption certificate

This will be in addition to at least one of the following:

  • National insurance number
  • Driving license
  • Naturalisation certificate
  • Right of abode certificate

For European Union (EU) residents (and those within Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) accepted identification will include:

  • National Identity cards
  • Receipt of UK benefits

You nor your clients will be expected to have expert knowledge on detecting fraudulent documents. Unless it is very apparent the documents have been forged, there will be a strong case to have any fines waived.

The process will only need to be carried out once, unless the tenant has a known time limit on their residency. If this is the case, further checks need to be carried out annually and if any issues arise, the landlord is advised to report any concerns to the Home Office immediately.

The Home Office will operate an enquiry service to assist landlords who need further clarification on the system and requirements. Further guidance will also be issued at a later date, including a complete list of acceptable documentation.

For more information, visit the gov.uk website.

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