£3,000 fine for landlords who flout new right to rent rules

A Lancashire solicitor is warning private landlords to carefully review the immigration status of new tenants or risk facing fines of up to £3,000 under tough new laws.

The stringent ‘right to rent’ rules, which recently came into force, are designed to counter illegal immigration and affect all North West-based buy-to-let landlords.

The new policy has been introduced as a result of the Immigration Act 2014 and means that landlords cannot let adults sign residential tenancy agreements unless they satisfy one of three criteria:

• The prospective tenant is a British citizen • They are an EEA or Swiss national • They have a right to rent in the UK – for example indefinite leave to remain, or limited leave to remain in a particular immigration category

Landlords who fail to check the residency status of tenants and house someone without the right to rent will be fined up to £3,000.

Graham Ireland, a partner at Blackburn-based Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors, said: “The checks apply to all adults living on premises, regardless of whether they’re named on the tenancy agreement or not, so, apart from having to check the status of everyone who will be living with the tenant, landlords can easily be caught out if their property is sub-let and they don’t have their finger firmly on the pulse.

“Families taking in lodgers aren’t exempt from the rules either, so they will also need to check these guests have the right to stay in the UK or face the hefty fine.”

The checks must be carried out up to 28 days before the tenancy begins, but where limited immigration status is involved, landlords must carry out a follow-up check within 12 months, or before the visa runs out.

Copies of the documents must also be kept by the landlord for 12 months after the tenancy expires, something which Graham Ireland could result in some landlords unintentionally breaching data protection rules.

“Landlords face falling foul of data protection laws if they keep the copy documents for longer than necessary, so there really is a whole raft of rules and strict processes to think about.

“Even tougher measures could also be in store, with parliament debating proposals for a five year jail sentence for those who flout the rules, so it’s vital that landlords ensure they’re properly fulfilling their obligations, otherwise risk facing a criminal conviction.” For more information about the rules surrounding the right to rent contact Graham Ireland on 01254 272640 or graham.ireland@whnsolicitors.co.uk