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.
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.
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.