For the past year, landlords have been required to conduct checks on prospective tenants. But recent changes have now made it even more important to do so, says
Jeremy Smith of local London Wiseman Lee.
Since February 2016 all landlords have been required to complete Right to Rent checks on their tenants. However, further provisions were introduced in December 2016, which will make landlords and agents guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to carry out Right to Rent checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrant tenants from their rented residential property in England.
There are also new provisions that make it easier for landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants from properties in England, and in some circumstances landlords are able to evict without a court order.
A landlord will commit an offence if both of the following conditions are met: firstly, the property is occupied by an adult who is not permitted to occupy the property as a result of their immigration status; and secondly, the landlord knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the property is occupied by an adult who is not permitted to occupy the property as a result of their immigration status. A landlord will not have committed the offence if both the following conditions are met: firstly, the adult in question has a time-limited Right to Rent; and secondly, the time-limited Right to Rent in relation to the adult has not expired. If the Secretary of State has given notice in writing to the landlord confirming that the adult in question is not permitted to occupy the property, the landlord will be liable even if the time-limited Right to Rent has not expired. This offence applies to all residential tenancy agreements, whether entered into before or after 1 December 2016.
If the landlord has taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy agreement and those steps are taken within a reasonable time, the landlord will have a defence to the criminal offence.
A landlord’s agent is liable to a criminal offence where they are responsible for either: allowing an adult to occupy a property under a residential tenancy agreement who is disqualified from doing so as a result of their immigration status; or allowing an adult to occupy a property after their time-limited Right to Rent expires and the occupier is disqualified as a result of their immigration status. These provisions only apply to offences by an agent which occur on or after 1 December 2016.
A landlord or agent who is guilty of either of the offences is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. This is a rapidly-evolving area of law and, as ever, there is no substitute for good advice. If you are a landlord and are unclear as to your responsibilities, or if you face prosecution as a result of the recent changes in the law, speak to your local solicitor straight away.