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Are your tenants disqualified from living in the UK?

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From 1 December 2016, a landlord or agent will have committed a criminal offence where they know or have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that any property they are letting is occupied by someone who is disqualified from residing in the UK, regardless of when the tenancy was granted.  This is due to Sections 39 to 41 of the Immigration Act 2016 amending the Immigration Act 2014 to enhance the ‘right to rent’ regime. 

Penalties and defences for landlords 

Not only can fines be issued should landlords be found to be in breach, but serious breaches could result in imprisonment of up to five years. In most cases, the civil sanctions will still apply; the criminal offence has been introduced to penalise landlords who continuously flout the law in relation to the ‘right to rent’ checks and/or do not take action to evict tenants with no ‘right to rent’.

No landlord will be committing an offence where they have carried out the prescribed document checks and those checks revealed that the prospective tenant/occupier was a person with a limited ‘right to rent’ and the eligibility period in relation to that limited ‘right to rent’ has not yet expired. However, this will not be effective where the Home Office has already issued a notice to the landlord explaining that their tenant is disqualified from renting.

An accused landlord may also be able to defend himself where he is able to prove that he has taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy agreement within a reasonable period of time. A guidance note titled “Immigration Act 2014: Guidance on taking reasonable steps to end a residential tenancy agreement within a reasonable time” has been drafted by the Government to attempt to clarify what this means, but it is less than clear.

Tenant eviction

If it becomes clear to a landlord that their tenant is disqualified, there are new, easier ways to get them evicted. A new ground 7B was added to Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988; this is a mandatory ground, whereby court proceedings can be brought after giving the tenant two weeks’ notice.

There is also a recommended statutory notice provided in the Schedule to The Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Termination of Residential Tenancy Agreements) (Guidance etc.) Regulations 2016 – this can be used where the Home Office has provided a notice/notices confirming that all tenants are disqualified from the ‘right to rent’. This notice gives a tenant a minimum of 28 days to leave the property, when a landlord will be able to ‘peaceably’ re-enter the property in question. Bailiffs can be instructed to attend if possession is not given up freely. Court proceedings are not required in these circumstances.  However, legal advice should be sought before steps are taken to obtain possession to avoid unlawful eviction.

Further information in relation to the ‘right to rent’ can be found by clicking here.  

If you have any further queries, Daniel Coleman can be contacted on 023 8071 7717 or danielcoleman@warnergoodman.co.uk. For general enquiries, contact Hayley Steer on 023 8071 7412 or email hayleysteer@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.