Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 imposes a civil penalty on landlords who let residential accommodation to illegal immigrants. A liability may also be incurred by letting agents, householders who let rooms to lodgers, and even a householder who allows a member of his extended family to stay, long term, as a non-paying guest. It will however be a defence that the landlord, etc, has carried out the required checks before letting the accommodation.
In practice, therefore, the landlord or householder will have to satisfy himself or herself that the applicant, and every other adult who will occupy the property (whether named on the tenancy agreement or not) has the “Right to Rent” by virtue of being a British citizen, EEA or Swiss national, or having been granted the right to live in the United Kingdom, either indefinitely or for a restricted time. This will mean checking, and retaining copies of, passports and other documents.
To avoid discrimination, these checks will have to be made, even if the applicant looks as British as John Bull.
The ‘Right to Rent’ requirements applies only where accommodation is to be occupied as the tenant’s or lodger’s only or main home, so will not apply to holiday accommodation. However, the Home Office guidance is that, if holiday accommodation is booked or occupied for three months or more, the hotelier or landlord should assume that the accommodation is in fact the occupier’s main residence.
The penalty will be £1,000 for a first offence and £3,000 thereafter, reduced to £80 and £500 respectively for lodgers in private households.
The ‘Right to Rent’ requirements is to be phased in area by area beginning, on 1 December 2014, with the West Midlands (Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton). Further details have been published by the Home Office in the Code of Practice on illegal immigrant and private rented accommodation (www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-landlords-code-of-practice).