Immigration Bill to tighten laws on property letting

The Government could be introducing new legislation into the private rented sector (PRS) which requires landlords and letting agents to ensure tenants have legal rights to reside within the UK. Many compliant landlords already carry out such checks, but there are some rogue landlords who fail to do so, in order to let sub-standard accommodation.

Around 85% of migrants who have lived within the UK for less than a year currently live in the PRS. Many illegal immigrants within the country are also renting. The main aim of the Immigration Bill is to reduce the amount of illegal immigrants and rogue landlords, as well as deter prospective offenders.

Immigration and security minister, James Brokenshire, says, "The right to rent checks are quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here. They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation."

This proposed rule however, has been criticised by individuals and organisations within the PRS and confusion is being raised as to how it will be implemented and the possible effects. Some representatives are also claiming the system could overburden landlords, as well as risk being an infringement of human rights.

Expected to come into force some time in 2015, the Immigration Bill will require landlords and agents to screen tenants’ identification to ensure they are living legally within the country. The Government insist the screening system will be a simple process and only in rare circumstances will the Home Office need to be contacted.

Landlords will be required to retain copies of the identification documents for 12 months, so they can be used as evidence, showing the checks have been carried out. If sufficient checks are not completed, the landlord or agent involved could be liable for a civil penalty. Fines for such an offence could be up to £1,000 in the first instance, and £3,000 thereafter if failures continue.

The new screening process will be trialled in the West Midlands before official release across the UK. Landlords and letting agents within the region will be expected to carry out checks from 1st December 2014. However the Residential Landlords Association say the legislation is likely to only apply to new tenancies starting on or after the date of enforcement.

Though the trial is yet to commence, the Government are confident it will prove successful and say the industry must prepare for the changes.

Do you advise your buy-to-let landlords to complete such checks already? Are you pleased this will soon be law, or will it create unnecessary pressure within the letting sector?

Today's Conveyancer