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Right to Rent – Criminal Offences

From 1st February 2016 all landlords have had to complete ‘Right to Rent’ checks on their tenants.

Further provisions are being introduced on 1st December 2016 which include criminal offences for landlords and agents who fail to carry out right to rent checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrant tenants from their rented residential property in England. There are also new provisions which make it easier for landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants from properties in England, and in some circumstances landlords are able to evict without a court order.

We have detailed the new possession provisions in a separate blog here.

This blog will focus on the potential criminal offences.

Landlord offence: failure to take steps to remove illegal immigrant tenants

A landlord will commit an offence if both of the following conditions are met:-

  1. a) The property is occupied by an adult who is not permitted to occupy the property as a result of their immigration status; and
  2. b) The landlord knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the property is occupied by an adult who is not permitted to occupy the property as a result of their immigration status.

A landlord will not have committed the offence if both the following conditions are met:-

  1. i) The adult in question has a time-limited right to rent; and
  2. ii) The time-limited right to rent in relation to the adult has not expired.

However, if the Secretary of State has given notice in writing to the landlord confirming that the adult in question is not permitted to occupy the property, the landlord will be liable even if the time-limited right to rent has not expired.

This offence applies to all residential tenancy agreements, whether entered into before or after 1st December 2016.

Defence – where reasonable steps are taken to end tenancy agreement in reasonable time

If the landlord has taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy agreement and those steps are taken within a reasonable time, the landlord will have a defence to the criminal offence. The court will take all of the circumstances of the case into account when deciding whether the landlord has a defence.

Agents: offences

A landlord’s agent is liable to a criminal offence where they are responsible for either:-

  1. Allowing an adult to occupy a property under a residential tenancy agreement who is disqualified from doing so as a result of their immigration status; or
  2. Allowing an adult to occupy a property after their time-limited right to rent expires and the occupier is disqualified as a result of their immigration status.

These provisions only apply to offences by an agent which occur on or after 1st December 2016.

Penalties

A landlord or agent who is guilty of either of the offences is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, a fine, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Laura Albon has been working in litigation for nearly 10 years. She works almost exclusively with property investors and agents across the whole country. She trained with the partners of Helix Law and has extensive experience in possession, service charge recovery, breach of covenant and commercial contract claims. She is able to pursue matters through the court and through The First Tier Tribunal (formerly the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal or LVT).

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice

Contact Helix Law on 01273 761 990 or email: [email protected]