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From 1 February 2016 all private landlords in England, including those subletting or taking in lodgers, will need to check the immigration status of all of their tenants, before entering into a new tenancy. These new rules are set out in the Immigration Act 2014.
Where a landlord uses a letting agent to manage their portfolio, the letting agent can take responsibility for carrying out the check, in certain circumstances.
Original documents need to be reviewed, and copied by landlords or letting agents. Documents can be reviewed up to 28 days before a tenancy is signed, and so checks can start during January, in preparation for 1st February 2016.
If the checks are not carried out correctly, the Home Office can issue fines of up to £3,000 per illegal occupier. The fines will be issued initially to Landlords who will need to prove that the Letting Agent had responsibility for carrying out the checks, by providing appropriate documents.
Problems can arise during the process, relating to race discrimination if the checks are not carried out correctly, and also with the ICO in respect of Data Protection issues as landlords and letting agents will be processing sensitive personal data and need to register with the ICO as data processors.
The Government is aiming to provide support to landlords and letting agents for this new change in legislation, and has prepared a very short video giving some more details about the process. There is also information available on gov.uk by using the search term “right to rent”.
In order to provide more detailed information, we have prepared a free webinar which can be viewed. The webinar gives full details about how to carry out the checks, when to contact the Home Office, and how to manage staff who will be carrying out these checks.
We have also prepared an Equal Opportunities training webinar, which can be used to protect your business against claims of race discrimination, if the checks are not carried out correctly, or tenants allege that they have been discriminated against, on the grounds of nationality or race.
For further information about the checks, how to protect your business or properties, and details about Equal Opportunities and Data Processing claims, please contact Debra Wetters.