Landlords and Agents are being warned that an upgrade to the current Immigration Act is to come into force before the end of this year, with serious legal implications for both letting agents and private landlords. These provisions further upgrade the Right to Rent regime with new, more severe, penalties and new powers. Currently, landlords or agents acting on their behalf are required to ensure that occupiers of properties with occupation agreements which began after February 1, 2016 have an appropriate Right to Rent. They can obtain a so-called “statutory excuse” against it being found that no Right to Rent exists by carrying out checks in the approved manner. If they are found to be renting to those without a Right to Rent and cannot fulfil the statutory excuse then a civil penalty of up to £3,000 can be levied against them. It is important to remember that the provisions also apply to lodgers and to any adult the landlord or agent reasonably believes will be occupying the property as their only or main home. The new Act keeps the original civil penalty but adds a new set of offences for landlords and agents who know or should have known that persons living in the property were not in possession of a right to rent. These new offences can be prosecuted in either the magistrates or crown court. In the magistrates court the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine, a prison sentence of up to 12 months, or a combination of the two while in the crown court there is again an unlimited fine but the maximum prison sentence is five years. The Home Office has previously stressed that prosecutions will be targeted at repeat offenders but the pressure is now vastly increased on landlords and agents to be seen to be doing the checks, and doing them properly. The new legislation also brings with it obligation to evict. New powers for the Home Secretary to serve a notice on a landlord in respect of occupiers who have a time-limited right to rent informing the landlord that this right has now expired or never in fact existed. Given the seriousness of the implications I would strongly advise that all private Landlords ensure that they are up to date with the current Right to Rent laws to protect themselves from such extreme penalties.
For more information visit: – www.gov.co.uk