The Immigration Act 2014 introduces a raft of substantial changes to UK immigration law. Bethan Owen looks at the new requirements for landlords

The Immigration Act 2014 requires private landlords of residential properties to keep a regular check on the prospective tenants’ immigration status. Landlords must also make sure that someone’s right to occupy the property does not lapse. Failure to comply could lead to a civil penalty of up to £3,000.

A person is disqualified from occupying property under a residential tenancy agreement if they are not a British citizen, a national of an EEA State, or do not have a right to rent in relation to the property – ie. they do not have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or have left, but it is subject to conditions that prevent them from occupying the property.

A landlord will have to review a tenant or prospective tenant’s documentation to determine whether they have a right to rent. Where it is unclear whether such right exists, landlords can submit a website or phone enquiry. The email service will have a maximum turnaround time of 48 hours, after which landlords are entitled to rent the property. This would be modelled on existing employee checking services designed to prevent illegal working.

The primary objective of the act is to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to gain access to privately rented accommodation, and to deter disregard for immigration rules. It is intended to benefit those communities blighted by illegal structures and overcrowded houses. The Home Office suggests that landlords may also benefit from lower losses of rental income because of the stringent tests put in place.

However, the additional administrative burden for landlords has prompted questions as to whether landlords should be saddled with policing the immigration system. The onus on the landlord to make annual checks and obtain and store information obtained from tenants compliant with the Data Protection Act is time-consuming, and could make it more appealing (and potentially discriminatory) for a landlord to take on a British person or one with indefinite leave to remain as a tenant. The government will therefore have to issue codes of practice for landlords, including one to assist in the prevention of any discrimination or racial profiling.

The government has indicated that the new scheme will be subject to a phased implementation and unlikely to be fully rolled out prior to the 2015 general election.