From next month, landlords who do not comply with the Right to Rent scheme will face a range of possible penalties, including up to five years in prison.
The Home Office recently announced a number of changes under the Immigration Act 2016, which come into effect from December 2016, including making a failure to meet Right to Rent requirements a criminal offence.
Right to Rent was introduced across England on 1st February 2016 and requires landlords or their letting agents to make adequate immigration checks before letting a property. If they do not, they can be liable for a fine of up to £3,000.
But the new provisions set out by the Home Office have created four new criminal offences that extend the potential punishments to include a fine, up to five years in prison or both. Some landlords could even receive a fine, a custodial sentence and further sanctions for persistent breaches or failure to take steps to remove illegal migrants from a property under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Carole Charge, technical and compliance director at property specialist Leaders, said: “Complying with the Right to Rent regulations will soon be even more important, as landlords face the threat of a jail term should they fail to do so.
“Illegal immigrants do not have the right to rent a home in the UK, but some unscrupulous landlords continue to exploit this market for financial gain. The Home Office has made it clear it is working to crackdown on this practice.
“As a result, I would advise all landlords to ensure they are adhering to every aspect of the Immigration Act, including the Right to Rent checks. If they have any doubts, working with a reputable letting agents can provide ultimate peace of mind.”
Landlords are currently unable to evict an illegal migrant tenant, but the new regulations are also designed to make this process easier by providing additional grounds for possession and, in some cases, evicting an illegal migrant without a court order.
Carole added: “The vast majority of landlords operate within the relevant guidelines, so new powers to help them evict tenants who are found to be living in the UK illegally are welcome.
“Letting agents will also be liable to a fine if they fail to meet the regulations, so landlords can trust their agent to ensure a property and its occupants meet all the required legislation.”