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What new immigration checks mean for tenants

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What new immigration checks mean for tenants

Immigration checks by landlords are a hot topic right now. Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more paper work involved in renting an apartment – do we have news for you! A ...

Immigration checks by landlords are a hot topic right now. Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more paper work involved in renting an apartment – do we have news for you! A new law introduced in May as part of the Immigration Act 2014, requires that landlords check the immigration status of all tenants and report anyone who does not have the right to live in the UK.Now, not only do you have to prove that you can afford to pay the rent, have a good rental history and put your signature on contracts promising you will keep your carpets clean, you also have to demonstrate that you are allowed to live in the UK.So what is this all about and how will it affect you? Let us break it down for you.

What is this law?

Introduced in May 2014, this ‘Right to Rent’ law makes landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of prospective tenants. Anyone wanting to rent an apartment or house will need to show evidence of a UK or EU citizenship or a valid UK visa. While this duty used to sit with the Home Office, it has now become a requirement for all landlords to screen prospective tenants as part of the crack down on illegal immigration and issues with people over staying their visas.
British passport

Photo credit: Paul on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/lancashire/4559685717

When is this happening?

As of 1 December, the new law is being piloted in the West Midlands including the areas of Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. It is expected that the rest of the UK will be introduced to the new system throughout 2015.

Who does this affect and how?

Anyone signing a new rental agreement after the law has been introduced will be required to provide proof of the right to live in the UK. All existing or renewed contracts that have already existed prior to 1 December 2014 do not require this additional check.Providing proof of your right to live in the UK could be as simple as showing your new landlord your UK or EU passport. For those who are living in the UK on a visa, you will need to show this as proof.The landlord will be required to take a copy of your passport and visa and keep it on record for at least twelve months after the tenancy has ended.If you’re unable to provide a valid passport or visa, the landlord must complete an online form via the Home Office’s website. The government will then stipulate whether or not you have the right to rent in the UK.Something to keep in mind is that this law affects anyone residing within a rental property – anyone who is subletting or who is living in the apartment but who does not appear on the lease must also undergo these checks.
Terraced houses

Photo credit: The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/eliteayrshirebusinesscircle/13951910360

What happens if the checks are not made?

If a landlord fails to confirm that their tenants have the right to reside in the UK, they will face fines of up to £3000. Many people feel this responsibility shouldn’t rest with landlords and that it should be up to the government to monitor the movement of immigrants in the country.

Is this going to affect your ability to rent an apartment?

This new law is more of a burden for landlords than tenants as the responsibility lies with the landlord to check your credentials. You will be required to provide more identification when signing a lease, but as long as you have a valid passport and visa, this shouldn’t be an issue.Some people are concerned that this new law will make it harder for people without a UK passport to rent an apartment, as landlords will not want to risk renting a property to someone who shouldn’t be living in the country. However, as long as you can provide evidence of your right to be in the country, this should not be an issue unless you’re being unfairly discriminated against.

Advice for renters

Get all your documents together and include photocopies of each one as a backup. Be aware of your rights as a renter and don’t be afraid of asking to see identification (like a passport) from a private owner before you hand over any cash for a deposit on the property, to make sure they are who they say they are.For more information follow the gov.uk link here. Keep in mind this was written early in 2014 and the trial period (in certain UK areas) has already been active since autumn of this year.Do you still have questions about how these laws will affect you? Feel free to ask us in the comments below. 

As content manager for Movebubble, it’s my job to be an expert on renting and London. Being a writer (Journalism BA Bournemouth University) with a passion for food and the arts, I definitely have my dream job! I love exploring the city and researching the latest information and news to bring to our readers. I love getting recommendations from readers on their favourite spots in London so if you have one, let us know in the comments!

Comments ( 9 )

  1. ReplyThandi
    Hi,My boyfriend and I are trying to rent a property in London where he is British and I am South African on a tier 1 visa (which is current). I have put a deposit down with Keatons only to be told that they will no longer be able to rent the property out to me as my visa is due for renewal in September. Are they allowed to do this?Thanks
    • Carly Klineberg
      Hi there. Is there any way you can put the property in your boyfriends name if he earns enough to cover the rent? If not and if you've already paid the deposit can you check the terms and conditions to see if Keatons can keep your deposit? If you send over the terms and conditions to hello@movebubble.com with "for the attention of Carly" as the e-mail subject, Aidan the CEO of Movebubble will have a quick look at it for you and we can e-mail you back directly.
    • Charlotte
      Hi Thandi,The checks are not yet mandatory nationwide and only apply in certain parts of the West Midlands, no in London.The Movement Against Xenophobia are doing an independent evaluation of the impact that this legislation is having on tenants and landlords both in these areas and the UK as a whole.We would be very interested in speaking to you further about your experiences. We have set up a survey for tenants to share their experiences, and one for landlords. You can access our surveys here: http://www.noxenophobia.org/immigration-act/right-to-rent-checks-survey/If you would be happy to speak with us, please get in touch policy@jcwi.org.ukAll information shared will be treated as strictly confidential.Regards, Charlotte
    • Vladimir
      hello Charlotte,i was checking the answer on internet for the same problem and found this site, could you help me please to clarify one question, i have sent my passport to home office for visa two months ago but the problem is that our landlord is selling the house and after start looking the house with the agencies i was asked to provide the passport which i don't have. Can i still rent the property if i don't have any for of the ID except photocopies of the passport ? and is this still not a mandatory for London now ?thank youVladimir
  2. ReplyEire
    Hi Carly/Move Bubble team,I am having a very similar issue to Thandi. I have been living legally in the UK for nearly 6 years (originally from the USA), on multiple different visas but now on a Tier 2 sponsorship visa through my work. This visa needs renewal in February, which my company say they want to do but cannot legally give me a guarantee this will happen until closer to the time. My British boyfriend and I paid all the admin fees and a holding deposit for Keatons (a month ago!) for a year-long contract with a flat. They are only NOW saying that I need to prove I can have sponsorship the entire year I am in the flat, and thus they will not rent it to us because I cannot obtain confirmation that this will happen.Are they allowed to do this? Based off everything I have read, they only need evidence that you are legal and fine at the time of application (which I am). Is that true? Or do you need existing proof for the entire contract? My boyfriend can easily afford the rent on his own as well. Any advice would be beneficial, thank you!
    • Freddie fforde
      Hi Eire,I'm really sorry to hear these problems are being thrown at you, it's not nice when you are just trying to live somewhere legally! We can't offer reliable legal advice, I would recommend that you contact the Citizen's Advice Bureau for a start - https://www.citizensadvice.org.ukThis is a relatively new law and I think certain agents are getting nervous about their obligations. Might be best to try and find somebody senior at the lettings agency that you can talk to in person, showing them your case in detail.Good luck
  3. ReplyDave
    HiI moved out of the previous property that I lived in and now after a year I am claiming the deposit from my landlord but he has asked me to send him my visa information to him in order to pay me back the deposit money. Does he have the right to see my visa information now after a year that I have moved out in order to pay me back the deposit? Is it safe for me to share with him my visa information?
    • Amy McKechnie
      Hi there, I don't see why the landlord would need that... but perhaps it's worth providing it if that will help to get your deposit returned? All the best!
  4. ReplyDaria
    Hi, does anyone know if you can sign a tenancy agreement while your visa application is in progress?I currently have a Tier 4 visa, which runs out in a month. I have applied to extend it because I am staying on to do a Master's. I applied a few days ago and was told my visa decision could take up to 8 weeks.Can I sign a tenancy agreement now or do I have to wait until I have received my visa decision?Many thanks, Daria

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