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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Why you need to prepare for the new immigration checks

01/02/2016


Immigration checks for all new private tenants start in England today - but what do social landlords need to know about the new scheme? CIH policy adviser John Perry explains

Immigration checks for new tenancies start today (February 1) but they don’t affect social landlords, do they? Actually, they do – because although many tenancies are exempt all landlords need to be aware of those that aren’t – and of the repercussions of the checks applying across the private sector.

From February any new tenant in England will need to prove their ‘right to rent’, unless they are in one of the exempt categories. Local authorities granting tenancies under their statutory powers don’t need to make the new checks, as entitlement to housing is already determined by other legislation. This applies too to housing associations when they grant a tenancy through a local authority nomination scheme. But any new tenancies outside this framework need checking.

Another catch is that all lodgers need to be checked, and the responsibility is likely to lie with the tenant offering the lodging. But of course most will be unaware of this, so landlords will have to advise tenants on how they make checks.

There are many loose ends in the legislation, too. For example, it is not clear what happens when a tenant succeeds to a tenancy. Social landlords are already turning up cases where the right to rent is not clear cut.

A much wider problem is lack of awareness in the private sector. One recent survey covering 5,000 landlords found that half didn’t know that right to rent was about to start. If you make use of referrals to the private sector, or offer advice to people looking for private tenancies, you will need to know how to help people deal with the checks, have the right documents available and handle any discrimination they experience.

Our analysis indicates that at least 2.5 million adults will need their immigration status checking this year – and potentially twice that number. Those doing the checks will in most cases be unfamiliar with immigration documents other than standard passports. The scope for error, for people being refused just because the landlord fears the stiff penalties for getting the checks wrong, or for outright discrimination against migrants or people who landlords believe to be migrants, is huge. We expect extra pressure on housing advice services and ultimately on homelessness services as people find it more difficult to get access to private lettings.

CIH has produced a free briefing on the practical implications of the policy, and we’ve also updated the advice on our housing rights website (run jointly with BMENational). We will also be working with other organisations to monitor the impact of the checks. We are keen to hear from housing organisations about local problems and to get feedback on how the scheme is working – do get in touch.

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