money

08 Aug 23

Landlords who allow rental properties to be let to migrants who do not have the right to be in the UK will face much larger financial penalties in future.

Landlords and agents who knowingly rent their properties to unauthorised migrants will face penalties of up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier for a first breach, up from £80 and £1,000 respectively.

Repeat breaches could cost them up to £10,000 per lodger, up from £500, and a maximum of £20,000 per occupier, up from £3,000.

It is thought laws to enforce the fines will be enacted early in 2024.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick says: “Making it harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK is vital to deterring dangerous, unnecessary small boat crossings. Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue. There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.”

In addition, company bosses who knowingly hire migrants who don’t have the right to work in the UK could face fines of up to £45,000 per worker for a first breach and up to £60,000 for repeat offenders; these have been raised from £15,000 and £20,000 respectively.

The hugely increased fines are on the recommendation of the government’s so-called immigration taskforce, launched earlier this year. 

The taskforce assessed whether immigration checks on accommodation and the labour market should be strengthened. 

Newspaper speculation suggests officials want in particular to monitor the gig economy, which largely relies on casual workers.

Existing Right to Rent legislation requires lettings agents (or landlords directly() in England to check that all tenants who occupy their properties have legal status to live in the UK. 

The Home Office introduced Right to Rent checks with the aim of making it harder for people to live and work in England illegally. Tenancies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not subject to Right to Rent checks.

When carrying out a Right to Rent check, agents must carry out a check on all prospective tenants over the age of 18, even if they are not named on the tenancy by either:

  • Checking an original form of ID (from a list of acceptable identification documents) in the presence of the prospective tenant;
  • or using an approved identity service provider (IDSP) to check ID;
  • or viewing a tenant’s Right to Rent online via the Home Office ‘share code’ system.

In certain cases the check can be carried out at any point in advance of the start of the tenancy. In others, the check needs to be carried out within the 28 days prior to the start of the tenancy.

Agents are also legally required to make follow-up checks where identification is time-limited, as in the case – for example – of  student visas.

Responding to the announcement Gary Scott – a partner at law firm Spector Constant & Williams – says: “This announcement is a further nail in the coffin for amateur landlords. The expectation seems to be that landlords should somehow become a branch of the Border Force.  The increase of penalties by 1000%, up to £10,000 per occupier for a first infringement of these rules and up to £20,000 for a repeat offence (an increase of 667%), will be likely to frighten off many good landlords. 

“The obligations have not changed but the penalty for getting it wrong have now become more than a headache or a slap across the wrist, but have moved to the territory of potential bankruptcy for many landlords. In these circumstances a simple error by an unwitting landlord allowing a family of four to take a tenancy when their immigration visas have just expired could arguably lead to fines for the landlord of up to £40,000. 

“Landlords, especially those with four or fewer properties and which make up over 50% of the total number of rented flats in the private rented sector, are not equipped or trained to carry out the role of a Border Force agent. The additional burdens on landlords brought in by the Government have already driven many from the market and this measure is likely to see many more follow suit.” 

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