The Home Office has (finally) announced the ‘pilot’ areas for the landlord immigration check requirement under Immigration Act 2014.
The areas are Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. The requirement will come in to force in those areas on 1 December 2014, with other areas to follow at unspecified dates in 2015.
The equipment will apply to all tenancies, leases below 7 years, sub-lets or lodging arrangements granted on or after 1 December 2014 in the affected areas. Existing or renewed agreements where the tenancy/lease/lodging etc. is continuous from before 1 December will not be affected.
Councils are exempted (including discharge of homeless duty via private sector), as are other social landlords (where they have already been required to consider prospective tenant’s immigration status before allocating them the property) and hostels and refuges ‘which are managed by social landlords, voluntary organisations or charities, or which are not operated on a commercial basis and whose operating costs are provided either wholly or in part by a government department or agency or a local authority’.
The Home Office has also released a “Code of Practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation“, for landlords and letting agents.
This makes clear how simple the legislation and the checking process is, coming in at 31 pages. It includes such luminously transparent passages as:
Where the initial right to rent checks are satisfied with a document from List B, or where the Landlords Checking Service has provided a “yes” response to a request for a right to rent check, a landlord establishes a time-limited statutory excuse. This time-limited statutory excuse lasts either for 12 months or until expiry of the person’s permission to be in the UK or the validity of their document which evidences their right to be in the UK, whichever is later. Follow-up checks should be undertaken before this time-limited statutory excuse expires, in order to maintain a statutory excuse.
And how can the landlord check if not sure?
When an individual cannot provide the landlord with any of the documents from List A or List B, but claims to have an ongoing immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, or that their documents are with the Home Office, or they have been granted a right to rent on a discretionary basis, then the landlord can request a right to rent check from the Home Office’s Landlords Checking Service using an online form. Where a landlord does not have access to the internet, a request can be made by telephone. The Landlords Checking Service will respond to the landlord with a clear “yes” or “no” response within 2 working days.
In order for the landlord to request a check, the prospective occupier must provide the landlord with a Home Office reference number. This can be, for example, an application or appeal number, application registration card (ARC) number, certificate of application number issued to a family member of a national of an EEA country or Switzerland, case number, etc. The landlord must include this information when requesting a right to rent check, to receive the “yes” or “no” response.
Oh, this is going to go so well.
Back in May, we said that we thought this was a horrendous, nasty, complex piece of legislation. Nothing has changed. It places a significant burden and indeed risk on landlords, faced with – to put it mildly – hideously complicated issues of immigration and residence status. As a result, it will certainly result in ‘safety first’ acts of discrimination against potential tenants whose right to reside in the UK is not glaring obvious, like a UK passport.