Tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation

The Government has launched a consultation on proposals that will require landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants before they provide keys to their accommodation. The guiding principle is that landlords should refuse to let if satisfactory evidence cannot be produced.

The Home Office will prepare a list of documents that landlords can use to verify the immigration status of prospective tenants. It will also operate an enquiry service to assist with any queries.

Checks will need to be repeated on an annual basis for those who have limited leave to remain in the UK. Landlords will need to keep a copy of the original immigration document for a minimum of 12 months after the tenants have moved out.

Landlords are not obliged to terminate the tenancy agreement or to evict tenants upon finding that they did not, or no longer have, valid leave to remain in the UK.

It is intended that the new policy will apply to all privately accommodations rented out to one or more persons to live in, as their main or only home.

Landlords are encouraged to report suspected illegal migrants to the Home Office in order to establish a statutory excuse from having to pay civil penalties of up to £3,000 per adult illegal migrant.

Notable exclusions are:

  • Social housing rented to tenants nominated by local authorities
  • Hotels providing accommodation for tourists and business travels under 3 months
  • Accommodation provided by universities and other full-time education establishments
  • Accommodation provided by employers to employees

Before the Government implements the policy in the autumn, it is seeking the public’s opinion in the following areas:

  • The scope of accommodations covered (e.g. should it apply to sub-tenants?)
  • After what period of time should immigration checks be required for tourists and business visitors?
  • Should letting agents perform the immigration checks on behalf of landlords?
  • How often should the immigration checks be performed on tenants with limited leave to remain in the UK?

How should landlords and letting agents contest liability and claim statutory excuse?