With the Conservatives now having an overall majority, there is speculation that the pilot immigration checks which letting agents and landlords have to conduct in the West Midlands will be rolled out across the country.
The Immigration Act 2014 obliges agents and landlords in the West Midlands to carry out document checks and keep records to identify if a potential tenant has the right to reside in the UK. 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 old Tory-led coalition government introduced the measures into one pilot region last December, promising a roll out across the UK in 2015. Speculation is now mounting that the new housing and immigration ministers may do just that as early as this summer.
The rules for the pilot in the West Midlands obliges agents to check the status of would-be tenants for all new tenancy agreements. In most cases this involves checking the tenant's passport or biometric residents permit; appropriate records of this need to be kept for up to 12 months after the tenancy ends.
Agents or landlords can request a check using an online form, which provides answers within two working days.
The new rules apply to individuals who take in lodgers and also apply to tenants who sub-let properties. Failure to abide by the regulations will result in fines up to £3,000.
A UKALA check-list for agents in the West Midlands - and to be extended across the country if the scheme rolls out - sets out seven points:
1. Check if a property is affected by using the Home Office online tool;
2. Read the Home Office Code of Practice which explains in detail what agents, landlords and tenants need to do;
3. Review your agency terms, conditions and contracts, to make sure the landlord's, tenant's and agent's responsibilities are clear;
4. Review your proceedures to ensure sufficient time is allowed to carry out checks and appropriate records are kept and actions are taken;
5. Review the wording of your tenancy agreements;
6. Confirm responsibilities in writing, if carrying out checks on behalf of landlord clients;
7. Call the Home Office telephone advice line on 0300 069 9799 for further advice and information, if required.