From this week, landlords in certain areas of the West Midlands need to conduct right-to-rent checks on tenants or risk a £3,000 fine.
The new rules are being introduced under the Immigration Act 2014 and being piloted in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley before being rolled out nationwide.
Landlords and letting agents in this region are now required to check if prospective occupants have the legal right to seek residency in the UK. As part of a wider movement, the Act aims to inhibit the free residence and movement of illegal immigrants, and clamp down on rogue landlords who offer overcrowding and unlawful properties.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “In most cases landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves by asking to see the passport or permit and then photocopying (and keeping) it, without having to request a check on a person’s right to be in the UK via the www.gov.uk website.
“In a limited number of cases, such as where tenants don’t have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the website.”
But the scheme has caused concern that the initiative will cause discrimination against foreign tenants, and also that it could lead to rising rents.
Mary Latham, West Midlands representative for the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “As the lettings market is a very competitive arena, it is entirely conceivable that landlords could end up favouring ‘low-risk’ tenants or those whose legal right to reside in the UK is clear-cut.
“Therefore NLA advises all landlords to look at the Home Office’s guidance on unlawful discrimination as well as the Code of Practice, which includes a list of acceptable documents to use to verify a tenant’s immigration status.”