A new system is being trialled in the West Midlands to help prevent illegal immigrants from renting property in the UK.
The “Right to Rent” legislation came into force on 1st December and, subject to the success of the trial, is expected to be rolled out across the country next year.
At present, only landlords with properties in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton need to comply. The ruling also applies only to new tenancies, so checks do not need to be made upon tenants who moved in prior to 1st December 2014.
Under the ruling, landlords will have a legal obligation to ask for proof of identity and citizenship from their tenants prior to arranging a tenancy.
Should landlords struggle to confirm tenants’ identities and places of origin, they can contact a special helpline set up by the Home Office to assist with the checks or they can apply for a Government identity check via the Home Office website.
For the many landlords and letting agents who already ask for ID as a matter of course, the law will lead to no significant changes. However, given the hefty fines attached to non-compliance, it is advisable for all landlords to bear the new rules in mind, particularly in the case of independent landlords unattached to letting agencies and for those whose current tenancies are due to expire.
The Government has stressed that the new legislation will benefit tenants, who will be protected from unscrupulous landlords who, until now, might have turned a blind eye to poor conditions, overcrowding and lax tenancy procedures.
Critics have stated, however, that the law has come into force too quickly, with many landlords still being unaware of the changes. Moreover, some parties are concerned that the rules could lead to discrimination, with “straightforward” tenants who can easily prove their identities being favoured over those for whom providing the documentation is more complicated.
For the majority of UK residents who are legally entitled to be in the country, though, the checks are quick and simple and pose no threat to their ability to rent housing.
The new rules build on the Immigration Act 2014, which is designed to stop public services from being accessed by illegal immigrants, to discourage immigration without a good reason and to make it easier for the Government to remove non-citizens from the country.
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