The Government has announced that it plans to introduce a legal requirement for landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, with civil penalties for those found to be letting property to undocumented migrants.

The questions for many landlords and agents will inevitably be ‘How much extra work will this mean for me?’ and ‘What will be the penalty for a breach of the rules?’

Employers currently face fines of up to £10,000 for illegally employing an undocumented migrant. Crucially, ignorance is no defence, and employers must check specific documents to evidence that an individual has the right to work in the UK in order to gain a statutory defence against such a fine. Knowingly employing illegal workers can result in an unlimited fine and potentially even imprisonment!

As yet, the Home Office has not decided on the exact rules that will apply to landlords, but it is likely that they will be based on the system currently in place for employers, as described above. What seems certain is that landlords, like employers, and higher education institutions, will have a duty to work with the Home Office in enforcing the governments’ immigration policy. Failure to assist and to comply with these duties would likely lead to punitive fines.

For many individual landlords, as well as letting agents, such a fine could have a significant impact on the business, and needless to say, the embarrassment associated with a civil penalty for breach of immigration law would inevitably damage a company’s reputation.

The Government will publish documentation on how to comply with the new legislation in due course. It is likely that there will be many pages of guidance that many will find lengthy and unclear, with the Home Office expecting landlords and agents to understand and implement these procedures straight away.

As immigration advisers, UKWP offers step-by-step support on how to comply with any changes the Government implements to ensure that you stay up to date with the rapidly changing legislation, enabling you to run your business with confidence.

If you have any questions about these regulations or the way they might affect your business, or if you simply want to get ahead of the game and introduce suitable policies before these new rules are introduced, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free initial assessment.