The Immigration Bill received its Royal Assent on the 14th May 2014, making way for a series of reforms which are designed to ensure an immigration system which is fairer to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tougher on those with no right to be here.
The Immigration Act 2014 contains 77 clauses, a substantial section of which apply to landlords and residential lettings, and makes fundamental changes to how the immigration system functions.
The Act is intended to limit the factors which draw illegal migrants to the UK, make it easier to remove those with no right to be here and ensure the Courts have regard to Parliament’s view of what the public interest requires when considering Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in immigration cases.
The Immigration and Security Minister has said:
“The Immigration Act is a landmark piece of legislation which will build on our existing reforms to ensure that our immigration system works in the national interest.
We are already planning its implementation and will ensure these measures are introduced quickly and effectively.
The Immigration Act will significantly enhance the way Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and UK Visas & Immigration undertake their work to secure the border, enforce the immigration rules and continue to attract the brightest and the best.”
Highlights of the Immigration Act:
– Cutting the number of immigration decisions that can be appealed from 17 to 4, while allowing us to return certain harmful individuals before their appeals are heard if there is no risk of serious irreversible harm
– Ensuring that the courts have regard to Parliament’s view of what the public interest requires when considering European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) Article 8 claims in immigration cases – making clear the right to a family life is not to be regarded as absolute and unqualified
– Clamping down on people who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a sham marriage or civil partnership
– Requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, preventing those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private rented housing
– Introducing a new requirement from temporary migrants with time-limited immigration status by requiring them to make a financial contribution to the National Health Service.
The Act will also include powers to prevent repeat bail applications when a removal is imminent, revoke driving licences held by immigration offenders and allow the Home Secretary to deprive a naturalised individual of their British citizenship if their actions have been seriously prejudicial to the interests of the United
Kingdom and the Home Secretary has reasonable grounds for believing the person is able to become a national of another country.
The Implications of the Immigration Act for Landlords – A Duty to Check
The duty of preventing illegal immigration is being extended to include landlords as well as employers. The Bill aims to help prevent illegal immigrants obtaining tenancies, and also aims to prevent the more recent problem of rogue landlords exploiting illegal immigrants by placing them in poor quality housing, commonly known as “beds in sheds”.
Under the requirements in Section 22 of the Act, it will become illegal with limited exceptions to assign a tenancy to a person who does not have the correct immigration status. Landlords doing so will risk a fine of up to £3000 per tenant. Therefore there is now a duty on all landlords (or agents on their behalf) to check the immigration status of prospective tenants, all adults expected to live in the property.
The new duty applies to both social as well as private landlords. Student housing will be exempt if providing accommodation on behalf of a recognised educational body such as a university.
Landlords will be required to check all those expected to be living in the household at the start of a tenancy not just those whose names are on the tenancy agreement.
The latter point raises some controversial issues by making landlords responsible to carry out checks on those with whom they has no contractual relationship, or indeed any ability to enforce their rights under the tenancy agreement.
Government has emphasised that actions required of landlords will be fairly quick, simple and straightforward and will not put them to excessive additional expense, as the documents used to check tenants will be little different to existing checks: passports, licences and ID cards etc. Where a landlord accepts documents that are not “readily apparent to an untrained person as being forged or fraudulent”, they will have a ‘statutory excuse’ from paying any penalty”.
Landlords will need to be careful to ensure that all potential tenants are put through a similar checking process as only checking or applying different criteria to those tenants that appear “foreign” could lead to charges of discrimination.
However, as of June 2014 landlords and agents will not need to worry about implementing any of these requirements as it seems there will be a trial period restricted to a specific geographic area of the country. As yet we do not have details but we will up-date as required.
The Immigration Act 2014
Guide & Information – www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-bill