West Midlands chosen as the pilot for the new right to rent scheme

Monday 08-12-2014 - 10:47

In September Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced that new immigration measures which require landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants will be trialled in the West Midlands region. The implementation of the checks or ‘Right to Rent’ commenced from 1 December 2014.

What is the new law?

As part of the Immigration Act it will be compulsory for landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants or face a fine of up to £3,000 for not doing so. This will involve checking if the prospective tenant has the right to live in the UK and applies to every tenant regardless of whether they are a UK citizen or an immigrant of any description.

The proof of immigration status landlords will need to check will be documents which provide evidence of identity and citizenship, for example a passport or biometric residence permit. Landlords will be required to copy these documents and retain them for the duration of the tenancy and for a year after the tenancy ends. In most cases landlords will carry these actions out themselves however in special circumstances the Home Office will carry out the checks.

After the initial pilot stage in the West Midlands, the implementation of the legislation will be evaluated and may then be rolled out across the UK if the pilot is considered successful.

Who will be affected by this?

For the purposes of this legislation those who live in the following areas will be part of the pilot:

  • Birmingham
  • Dudley
  • Sandwell
  • Walsall
  • Wolverhampton

Why is this relevant to students’ unions

The legislation affects everyone who is planning to rent in the private rented sector regardless of citizenship, so will affect any student who has agreed a new tenancy in the pilot area on or after 1 December 2014. Those who have already commenced their tenancy before this date will not have to be checked but any new tenancy agreement (i.e. if you move property) will require checks. However the following groups will be exempt from the checks (you can check full details of exemptions at the Home Office's guide for landlords):

  • Those who live in an exempt property. This includes student halls of residence; accommodation owned and managed by a higher or further education institution, or a body established for charitable purposes only; and accommodation that you have been nominated to occupy by such an institution, or charitable body. This means that students renting head-leased property through their university will be exempted.
  • Those who are under 18 when they have entered into the tenancy agreement; they will remain exempt until the landlord's next set of checks are due, even if you turn 18 during this time.
  • Those who are not using the property as their main or only home in the UK.
  • Those who have as their landlord an immediate family member such as a parent.
  • Those who are a guest in the property and do not pay rent to stay there and it is not their main residence in the UK
  • Those who are using the property as holiday accommodation, such as a hotel and will be staying for a limited period only

What NUS is doing

There is some concern over how the immigration checks may unduly affect international students at in the West Midlands and that the process will be overly bureaucratic.  International students already face several checks on their immigration status before they arrive in the UK and throughout their study under the existing immigration rules. An additional check is not necessary. 

International students already face challenges in the private rental sector including finding a UK guarantor and finding property before they arrive.  This additional check compounds these challenges. Furthermore there are a number of potential issues surrounding how landlords implement the checks, including the risk of xenophobia and discrimination.

Therefore NUS officers and staff will be working with students’ unions in the area and other organisations such as UKCISA, Shelter and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to ensure that students are supported to deal with the new requirements and to make sure that the scheme is properly evaluated in order that it does not put any renter at an unnecessary disadvantage in the private rented sector.

You can find out more information about Right to Rent here and the guidelines for landlords are available hereYou can find out if your property in the West Midlands will be affected here.



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