Changes to the Immigration Bill have now come into force, meaning new legislations for the private rental sector.
The Immigration Bill has now become the Immigration Act 2016 and has created more criminal offences on top of existing civil fines.
In addition, new powers to evict people who are found to not have the Right to Rent have also been created.
Further sections have been added to the existing Immigration Act, inserted as sections 33A to 33E in the 2014 version.
A main new offence concerns landlords who knowingly let to illegal immigrants who do not have the Right to Rent. This happens when a buy-to-let landlord:
- has let to one or more persons who do not have the right to stay in the UK
- did not conduct a Right to Rent check on the person(s)
- allows the tenant to stay after time limit due to visas etc has expired
If a landlord has a justified statutory excuse however then no offence has been committed. For example, should a landlord have been provided with forged documents, then, providing they are not obvious, than a landlord will have no reasonable idea that their occupants are renting illegally.
Further changes now permit the Secretary of State to serve landlords with notice that one or all occupants in their rental property do not have the Right to Rent. Previously, this would have left landlords at risk of being found guilty of an offence as soon as they received this information.
However, a defence clause has now been inserted that protects landlords, providing that they are or have taken steps to terminate a tenancy when becoming aware of the issue.
Landlords are also committing an offence when they have satisfied themselves their tenants have a time-limited Right to Rent but do not carry out any follow up action. This could include:
- not carry out further checks after the expiry date
- failure to submit a report to the Home Office
- being aware that their tenant no longer has a Right to Rent
In addition, there are also new offences that letting agents can commit. These are largely similar to those outlined above, but do not include the benefit of defence that landlords are given.
As a result, where a letting agent is responsible for carrying out Right to Rent checks, an offence is committed when they find out occupiers don’t have or have lost the Right to Rent and:
- do not inform the landlord
- do not inform the Home Office
- fail to complete a report
What’s more, more serious fines have been implemented for more serious or repeat offenders. There are now the prospects of unlimited fines and/or a jail term of up to five years.
This replaces the previous maximum fine of £3,000.
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