Despite the vehement protests from many in the private rental community, I see it as inevitable that landlords and agents will be held responsible for checking immigration status.
It’s difficult to see who else could do this apart from the person letting a property to an individual, and from that perspective there’s little difference in that and taking on an employee.
It’s perfectly understandable why landlords and agents would resist. This extra layer of bureaucracy ads considerably to the work involved when letting, on top of other onerous regulations which must now be complied with.
It would seem that an inevitable consequence of living in an advanced multi-cultural society such as ours is an increasing flow of legislation, codes of conduct and guidelines from our law making bodies and other agencies. From the Westminster Parliament to the European Parliament, and not to mention devolution and the prospect of Scottish independence, there’s been a proliferation of rules and regulations in recent years, despite the Coalition’s promise of a wholesale scrapping of “red tape”
A largely unrecognised consequence of all these new rules is the expense of endless court cases testing what Parliament actually meant when they drafted a Bill (often in a hurry), as test case after test case changes the landscape. A case in point is the absolute fiasco over the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) legislation which is still not fully unresolved 5 years later.
As the Immigration Bill makes its way through the House of Commons and Lords, the Home Office has been busy producing draft documents which will support the legislation and its enforcement, namely:
- An Anti-Discrimination Code – 14 pages
- A Statutory Code of Practice – 35 pages
Both these documents are designed to assist landlords and agents in the “Prevention of illegal migrants securing private rented accommodation” and they set-out the likely Civil Penalties for landlords and agents.
Key points as I discern them are:
(1) Landlords and agents must show they are being fair to tenants by using the same consistent advertising and screening processes for British and European Economic Area citizens as they do for foreign nationals. Failure to do this and obtain a “statutory excuse” for ALL potential occupants could result in proceedings brought under the Equality Act 2010.
(2) To establish a “statutory excuse” against receiving a penalty, under the forthcoming Immigration Act 2014, landlords and agents will be asked to provide consistent documentary evidence that they have checked immigration status before a tenancy is granted. Landlords will not be expected to be experts but will be expected to check a range of approved documents, and where forgery is “reasonably apparent” to recognise this.
(3) Where a status is time limited, landlords and agents will be expected to carry out re-checks on their tenants during the course of a tenancy.
Most of the credit checking and referencing agencies working on behalf of landlords and agents, it is expected, will offer additional immigration status checks in the near future.
The key to this is having a robust procedure to follow consistently for every tenancy applicant and making sure you generate documentary evidence in the process. See our lead article this month: “Discrimination and Immigration Checks”.
Tom Entwistle, Editor.