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The Immigration Act 2014 places new restrictions on illegal immigrants accessing private rented accommodation.

By law, landlords will be required to carry out document checks to identify if a potential tenant has the right to reside in the UK, before they grant a tenancy. Landlords will also be required to keep appropriate records during the tenancy and for at least twelve months after the tenancy has ended.

Agents can carry out checks on behalf of a landlord, but are advised to confirm their responsibilities in writing. Where an agent has accepted responsibility for compliance with the new rules, the agent will be the liable party in place of the landlord.

The new rules will initially be launched in the West Midlands from 1st December 2014, before being rolled out around the UK in 2015.

What does this mean for landlords or agent?
The requirement to carry out document checks will apply to: (1) All adults aged 18 and over living at the property (2) New tenancy agreements starting on or after 1st December 2014

In most cases, landlords will simply need to check the tenant’s passport or biometric residents permit prior to granting a tenancy. Landlords will need to check original documents and keep a copy and appropriate records during the tenancy and for up to twelve months after the tenancy has ended.

In a limited number of cases, where tenants do not have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using an online form. The checking service will then provide a yes or no answer within 2 working days.

The new law will mean private landlords letting property in these areas will have to check the right of prospective tenants to be in the country if they want to avoid potentially being fined up to £3,000. This includes landlords who take in lodgers or landlords and tenants who sub-let property.

The Home Office has said it will evaluate the launch in the West Midlands, before rolling out the measures around the rest of the UK in 2015.