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Immigration Act gives new eviction powers to English landlords

February 2016 saw the roll out of “right to rent” checks across England.  All landlords providing tenancies in England are required to carry out these checks.  The aim of the checks is to ensure that any person living in a rental property has the correct permissions to reside in the country and to contribute towards a more “hostile environment” for migrants who are here without the necessary permissions. 

Landlords in England face financial penalties and prosecution if they rent to someone who does not have a legal right to be in the UK.   1 November 2016 saw the commencement of new legislation, currently applicable only to tenancies in England, which will make it easier for landlords to end the tenancy of anyone who is disqualified from renting residential property by virtue of their immigration status.  The Immigration Act 2016 allows a landlord to issue a notice to quit to a tenant where the landlord has received notification from the Secretary of State that the person in question is disqualified from renting a property as a result of his or her immigration status. This notice to quit letter will be enforceable in the same way as an order from the High Court, essentially removing the requirement for the landlord to obtain a possession order at court.

It is essential that landlords and agents in Northern Ireland understand that these provisions do not apply to tenancies in Northern Ireland and that all tenants have the right to due process of law and can only be forcibly evicted through enforcement action in the Enforcement of Judgements Office.

The “right to rent” in Northern Ireland

Landlords in Northern Ireland are not required to clarify the immigration status of tenants and cannot face any punitive action if they rent out property to someone who does not have the correct permissions to remain in the country.  Landlords should ensure that they do not discriminate against any applicant for a tenancy.  While landlords are, of course, entitled to choose the tenant who they believe is most suitable for the property, they must also abide by the requirements of equality legislation and must not discriminate on grounds of race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or other protected grounds.

When asked by Housing Rights for an update on the position of this policy in Northern Ireland, the Home Office said: “The Right to Rent scheme applies only to England at this point in time. The UK Government intends for the scheme and the new measures …to be rolled out across the rest of the UK. The Government will wish, however, to ensure that our communities, landlords, agents and tenants are aware of the scheme and new offences and how these work before they are brought into force”. 

How “right to rent” checks will affect landlords in Northern Ireland

These checks will necessitate an additional stage in pre-tenancy checks for all applicants.  Landlords will be expected to satisfy themselves as to the immigration status of any person to whom they rent a property.  In order to avoid any allegations of discrimination, the Home Office encourages landlords to apply these checks to all potential tenants and not just to those who may appear to be migrants.

The legislation also applies to “head tenants” who arrange sub-lettings with the permission of their landlord.  Tenants who take on this position will need to familiarise themselves with the Home Office’s guidance once these checks become an established part of tenancy management in Northern Ireland.

Landlords can satisfy themselves as to the immigration status of a person by checking some commonly held documents.  The Home Office has stated that it does not expect landlords to become experts in immigration or in forgery and that an offence will only arise where a landlord has failed to carry out the checks or knowingly let property to someone who is a disqualified person.  Guidance on the duties imposed on landlords and head tenants by the relevant Immigration Acts is available from the Home Office.

At the moment, the Home Office cannot give a date for when these measures will be rolled out to Northern Ireland. We will continue to update our resources as we learn more about any proposals to extend this policy to Northern Ireland.

Tagged In

Minority Groups, Private Tenancies, Landlord