Landlords’ new role as border guards
Following the obligations introduced in February 2016 on landlords to carry out ‘right to rent’ checks, the government has now introduced (from 1 December 2016) new statutory provisions to make it easier for landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants and criminal sanctions if landlords fail to take sufficient steps to do so.
There are two new key methods of eviction relating to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (the most common form of tenancy in the private sector) in England:
- Where all the occupiers of a property are disqualified from renting due to their immigration status, and the Secretary of State has notified the landlord of this, the landlord may terminate the tenancy agreement by giving notice in a prescribed form and giving at least 28 days’ notice. This notice to quit is enforceable as if it were an order of the High Court.
- Where one or more of the tenants of a property are illegal immigrants (but not necessarily all of them), and the Secretary of State has given notice to the landlord, the landlord may serve a section 8 notice specifying a new ground 7B, and giving the occupier two weeks’ notice to leave. The ground 7B notice is a mandatory notice, meaning the court must grant an order for possession if the landlord has served the notice correctly. It is an implied term of the tenancy that the tenancy may be brought to an end on the basis of ground 7B.
Landlords now face possible criminal sanctions for failing to carry out right to rent checks and/or for knowing, or having reasonable cause to know, that their property is occupied by an illegal immigrant tenant. Landlords do, however, have a possible defence if they can show that they have taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy, within a reasonable time. All in all, there are a lot of pitfalls for residential landlords to look out for in 2017!