Residential landlords are reminded that since 1 December 2014, the Government has been carrying out a pilot scheme (currently only in parts of the Midlands) requiring checks to be made on the residency status of tenants and occupiers who have tenancy agreements lasting for less than seven years. Leases which grant a right of occupation for a term of seven years or more are exempt unless the tenancy agreement can be terminated before the end of seven years from the start of the term.
Certain types of tenancy are excluded: social tenancies, student housing, hospital housing and care home accommodation for example.
Failure to comply with regulations laid down in the Immigration Act 2014, which prohibit landlords from allowing occupation by persons who are not 'relevant nationals' or those who do not have the legal right to remain in the UK, can lead to a fine of up to £3,000 per occupier if illegal occupiers are found. Relevant nationals are British citizens, nationals of an EEA state or Swiss nationals.
The landlord should seek and retain documentary evidence of the immigration status of occupiers for the duration of the lease plus 12 months.
The scheme will be evaluated by the Home Office in the next few months and the intention is to carry out a phased introduction nationwide over the course of the year.
The Government has published guidance for landlords, homeowners and letting agents affected by the introduction of these checks.