Another important development in the Right To Rent arena
Back in February, I blogged about the then new requirement for landlords to conduct appropriate checks to ensure that their prospective tenants have the right to rent property in the UK. And the fact that you could be fined up to £3,000 for failure to do so.
New criminal offence
On 12th May 2016 the Immigration Act 2016 came into force. It creates a series of criminal offences in addition to existing civil fines for failure to carry out Right to Rent checks. It also includes new eviction powers in respect of those who don’t have a Right to Rent.
The new landlord offences
1. As a landlord you will now be committing an offence if you have knowingly let to illegal immigrants, if you:
- Have let to one or more persons who do not have a Right to Rent,
- Know or should have known that those persons did not have a Right to Rent, and
- Where there was a time-limited Right to Rent, and the time limit has now expired.
2. A second offence is committed if, in the case of a time-limited Right to Rent, you haven’t carried out the necessary follow-up checks or made a report to the Home Office and are reasonably aware or should have been aware, that the person in the property does not have a Right to Rent.
So where does that leave you?
If you’ve been presented with forged documents then, provided that those forgeries were not obvious, you are protected. But (there’s always a but isn’t there?), the Secretary of State can serve you with a notice telling you that some or all of the occupiers in your property do not in fact have a Right to Rent and if that happens, you can’t say that you didn’t know.
However, you will not be committing an offence provided that on receipt of the notice, you take reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy promptly.
But it’s still unclear
It’s early days so it remains to be seen how quickly the authorities will act and what will be considered as “taking reasonable steps” to terminate a tenancy. There is a power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on this but so far, he hasn’t.
And the penalties?
The new penalties include an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years. And that’s on top of the potential for a £3,000 fine in civil proceedings. Although one would hope that the more serious penalties will be saved for serious and repeat offenders, this is not an area you can afford to ignore.
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