1 in 5 tenants may incur their landlord fines under new immigration laws


The new measures to combat illegal immigration announced in the Queen's Speech earlier on this year continue to court controversy both in the industry and outside of it.

The rules place the onus on landlords to ensure that any new tenants are legal residents in the UK by taking copies of a checklist of documents. Those documents include either a valid British Passport or the provision of birth certificate, national insurance number and driving licence/naturalisation documents/right of abode certificates, and will have to be supplied for all adults living within the property.

Landlords who are found to have tenants without the necessary documentation could face fines of up to £3,000 as of April 2014. The measures have come under fire for several reasons, and scrutiny has now increased as the National Landlord Association's tenant index reveals that almost 20% of tenants would be reluctant to reveal their immigration status to a landlord or letting agent.

That only further raises the question of whether landlords would be as willing to take on tenants with complex immigration status under the new plans, as they would then have to keep up to date with their legality to avoid punishment. The incentive to undertake further administration on top of the arduous responsibility that the ruling has already placed on agents and landlords is non-existent.

Most of the controversy surrounding the new immigration plan is that it has not been properly thought through, as it is seen as increasing the regulatory burden on landlords and letting agents with little impact on actually reducing the problem of illegal immigration.

Any landlord or letting agent who is found to have allowed an illegal immigrant to live within their property for the first time will incur a fine of £1,000 per tenant as of April 2014. However, if any landlord has received a warning about illegal tenants in their property, the fine will be increased to £3,000 per tenant. The fines may be extended to families who take on lodgers as well, although the actual fine would vary for these instances. For all of the above fines, the tenant would have to have entered the property after February 2014.

Immigration checks will have to form part of a landlord's overall referencing process. To relieve the burden of referencing and get 2 credit checks for the price of 1, sign up for Lettingref.

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