The newly published Immigration Bill has divided opinion amongst voters up and down the country but agree with it or not, there will soon be a legal requirement placed on landlords (amongst others) to check the immigration status of their tenants. According to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, the bill is designed in May's words to "create a really hostile environment for illegal migrants". "What we don't want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they're able to access everything they need." With emotive language like this, you can see why opinion is divided; a number of the property industry bodies are saying its “unfair”, “unworkable”, unenforceable”, “undemocratic” etc and why should landlords suddenly have to become immigration experts? Apparently, there’s something like 404 different types of visa that a landlord would have to be aware of. There are fears that a lot of landlords will opt out of letting to any foreign national, whether or not they’re perfectly entitled to live and work here, rather than run the risk of inadvertently breaking the law. (Of course that will mean breaking another one!)
However, we take the view that the Bill will simply formalise what we’ve always done as a matter of common-sense. Forget any politicising or arguments about discrimination and the like, shouldn’t all landlords want to know that all of their tenants are who they say they are and are entitled to rent the landlord’s property? Turn that around, would you let your property to someone without checking who they were? As a matter of course, we check the identity and residency status of all prospective tenants as part of our comprehensive referencing procedures.
Under the Bill, landlords or their agents will be required to see appropriate photo ID for their prospective tenant; a valid passport is the quickest and easiest. Take a photograph of this for your records and a picture of their visa if appropriate. Do check the visa is within date and it expires after the end date of the proposed tenancy – no point letting your property to someone who may be legally required to leave the country half way through their tenancy, if they’re unable to get their visa renewed. Nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have the right of free movement and residence in the UK so along with UK passport holders, no further checks are required. As for the 404 visas that are required, the easiest way to check what is/isn’t needed is take a look at the UK Border Agency’s website at this helpfully named page www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/do-you-need-a-visa/
When the new law goes live next year, the Home Office will provide a help-line and email service to enable landlords etc., to check whether or not the person they’re checking upon is legally entitled to be in the UK. These are said to offer a 48 hour turnaround time which is certainly an acceptable time-frame.
For more information call Mike White at Martin & Co on 01603 766860