Landlords seeking to let out property to new tenants will have to carry out intensive UK immigration checks or they could face a hefty fine or even imprisonment.
The landlord checking service, which has been piloted in the West Midlands since the end of last year, is set to be rolled out nationally as part of the new Immigration Bill due before Parliament in the autumn.
The new legislation, which is part of the Government’s efforts to reduce net migration figures, is expected to carry prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to £3,000 for landlords found to have let property to someone in the UK illegally.
Landlords will be responsible for checking the immigration status of each tenant before agreeing to rent property to them.
Immigration advisor Veera Thakur told the Western Morning News: “This represents a potentially major escalation of the immigration issue for landlords. We expect the Government to simultaneously extend the checking service beyond the West Midlands to include the whole of England, and to significantly stiffen the penalties that could be imposed by the Home Office including hefty fines and even five years imprisonment in serious cases – this is the same as a fire-arm sentence.”
She warned that landlords need to get things right first time because those who have licences to let multiple occupancy properties could see them revoked if they are found to have broken the rules on more than one occasion. There is also the danger that landlords could be left with property lying empty for long periods unless they get up to speed with the new requirements.
Mrs Thakur added: “Landlords have to ensure they are making the right checks and collecting the right documentary evidence for each tenant – which will depend on whether they are British, have settled status or have only limited leave to stay in this country.”