With the Immigration Bill 2015-16 proceeding to committee stage in the House of Lords today, landlords are reminded that the England-wide implementation of ‘right to rent’ checks will commence in just two weeks’ time.
The right to rent measures, under which landlords must check the immigration status of their prospective tenants, were introduced in parts of the West Midlands on 1 December 2014 as part of what was to become a 14-month pilot scheme.
National roll-out to occur on 1 February
On 20 October 2015, the government announced that from 1 February 2016 checks would be introduced for landlords across the whole of England.
Penalties for non-compliance have become more severe
Under the initial Immigration Act 2014, which introduced right to rent legislation, landlords were liable only for a civil penalty of up to £3,000 if they failed to conduct checks as required.
The severity of the possible punishment was increased, however, by the draft Immigration Bill 2015–16, which was first published on 17 September 2015. Under the new legislation, landlords could face prison sentences of up to five years for noncompliance.
The 2015–16 Bill is currently in the House of Lords
The Immigration Bill 2015–16 was passed from the House of Commons to the House of Lords on 1 December. On 22 December, the Lords debated the Bill for the second time.
Today, on 18 January, the Bill will enter the committee stage, where the upper house will examine its content line by line. A committee stage typically lasts for two weeks.
You can follow the progress of the Immigration Bill 2015–16 here: www.parliament.uk.
What must landlords do to meet the new requirements?
The requirements will apply to all tenancies that commence on or after 1 February, though landlords can start to carry out the necessary checks before this date. The checks must be carried out within the first 28 days of an affected tenancy.
All prospective tenants over the age of 18 will need to be checked if they will be renting the property as their main or only home. The Home Office recommends that landlords assume that the property will be the tenant’s main home in the event that there is any doubt.
For more information on how to conduct checks, refer to the Home Office’s draft code of practice: www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-landlords-code-of-practice