Private Landlords, Letting Agents and Estate Agents Should Check Passports and Visas to Stay Within New UK Immigration Control Legislation
UK Private Landlords to be Responsible for Border Controls
New legislation announced in the Queens speech last month outlined an immigration control measure which obliges Landlords to ensure that their tenants are legally entitled to be in the country.
Most landlords will be carefully checking their tenant already. Including ensuring that their tenant is in employment, that they are who they say they are, and that they have good references from previous landlords, to protect their own interests in terms of getting the best tenant for their property.
However what is not clear is how much responsibility the Government is going to expect the average landlord to take, when checking the legal status of tenants and their rights to be in the country.
As a responsible Letting and Estate Agent Riley Marshall is already checking that they only deal with legitimate tenants. We have used our insider knowledge to put together these guidelines to help you stay within the law when it enters the statute books. To help you we examine what is best practice when finding and vetting tenants for your property.
If you are not using an estate agent how are you getting references for your tenant?
An agent will often use a specialist reference agency to provide a rounded profile of the tenants background and credit history which should also include checking their status in terms of their right to be in the country and to work legitimately. You can find out more about how a good estate agent will help you with references and other rental processes of finding and vetting tenants who will be right for your property, in our series ‘What your Agent Does for You’.
So what documents should landlords be checking?
Ask to see a passport
- Check the photo and the dates appear to be legitimately linked to the person you have in front of you,
- Take a copy and file it safely.
Check for a work Visa
- If the person is moving here from abroad they may need a work Visa – Using their passport to identify their nationality check on the UK Border Agency Website to see what documentation they need.
- Most citizens of EU Countries do not need a Visa or Permit to work in the UK but Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do need authorisation at the moment – this is likely to change though so it is best to check the website.
- People coming into Britain from the European Economic Area and Switzerland do not need permits or Visas to live or work here (except for Bulgaria and Romania as mentioned above). This area covers most EU countries but includes some that are not in the EU and excludes some who are – Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Check the status of all tenants
- If one tenant is coming over to work and their family is joining them ask for their passports too.
- Check with the Border Agency website what rules will apply to them when they are in the country.
Ask to see proof of previous addresses in the UK
- This is not a fail-safe measure of being legal in the country but it helps build up a picture of whether they are legitimate or not.
- A recent Council Tax or Utility Bill will prove that this tenant has been a resident in the country prior to moving into your property.
Ask for previous Landlords References
If there is any doubt about how legitimate a previous landlords reference is then you can always ask for earlier landlords references. This can be useful because they have no axe to grind in terms of being totally transparent about their dealings with a tenant.
However if your tenant has just moved here from abroad this may prove difficult in terms of being able to contact the landlord and verify who they are.
One Final Note of Caution
Employers are already expected to check these conditions before employing overseas workers, but just as they are not allowed to discriminate between workers because of where they come from, there is little doubt there will be similar expectations of Landlords when this legislation becomes concrete.