The controversial Government Right to Rent scheme is to be rolled out this February, meaning all landlords in England will need to carry out compulsory checks on their new tenants.
The move follows a six-month pilot in the West Midlands when 109 tenants were found to be living illegally in the country. Of these, 63 were unknown to the Home Office.
In addition, five landlords who failed to enforce the new checks were issued with penalty notices.
The government says its compulsory checks are aimed at creating a 'hostile environment for illegal immigrants'.
The move to roll-out right to rent comes after an evaluation which revealed there were no big differences in the actions of landlords towards minority ethnic tenants and British people in renting.
Landlords are reluctant to rent out their property
However, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has published data which reveals that many landlords are reluctant to rent out their property to someone who may not be holding a British passport or who has a foreign sounding name.
James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said: “The checks are simple and quick and responsible landlords already do them.”
The checks are part of the reforming of the immigration system and come under the Immigration Act 2014.
The new rules are mandatory and start from 1 February, with landlords who fail to carry them out effectively facing a penalty of £3,000 for every tenant missed.
Landlords must check identity documents for their new tenants and take copies of them.
Valid documents for Right to Rent
Valid documents for Right to Rent include, among other things, a UK or European Economic Area passport, a valid Home Office immigration status document, or a permanent residence card.
The policy director of the Residential Landlords’ Association, David Smith, said that the government has not taken enough time to review its pilot scheme thoroughly.
He added: “It's premature to announce the date for rolling out the scheme across England without considering the findings of the report in full.”
Call for a Property Agents Act
Meanwhile, the property ombudsman has called for a Property Agents Act because more than half of inquiries it deals with are for lettings disputes.
That's nearly double that of sales disputes.
The property ombudsman dealt with more than 9,100 inquiries and, they say, it underlines the importance of laws that made it compulsory for letting agents in England to register with an approved redress scheme.
However, the property ombudsman, Christopher Hayman, says more needs to be done and those in need for specific legislation.
He explained: “The act would bring letting agents into a framework where the activity is covered by one law.”