Following the announcements made by Home Office and DCLG ministers over the last few days, the NLA has met with both departments to understand the implications for landlords.
To summarise we now understand that, although no date has been set for national implementation, the departments have publically committed to three new measures. These are likely to be included in the Immigration Bill (2015) expected to be introduced to Parliament when MPs return from recess in September.
(i) A new criminal offence. The details of this offence are yet to be finalised, but it is expected to be focussed on repeat offenders and organised crime and will carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Single offences will still carry the previously announced financial penalties and it is expected that only those repeatedly failing to carry out checks and/or end tenancies when instructed to by the Home Office should fall foul.
(ii) A new possession ground. As expected, following lengthy discussions the Home Office has acknowledged that landlords need effective means to end tenancies where a tenant is found not to have the right-to-rent. This ground is expected to be introduced by means of amending the Housing Act 1988 and will be used in conjunction with s.8 of the same Act.
(iii) A legal notice from the Home Office bringing tenancies to an end. This is the second means by which a landlord will be able to end a tenancy, where the Home Office determines that the tenants do not have the right-to-rent and deems it necessary to terminate the tenancy.
The process is expected to entail the Home Office serving notice to the tenant, notifying them that they do not have the right to remain and that their tenancy is to be ‘excluded’ from various protections. Subsequently landlords will be able to serve a short (TBA) notice on the tenant ending the tenancy.
It will not be necessary to go to court to obtain an order for possession, as the tenancy will no longer be an AST (England and Wales) although landlords may choose to use court bailiffs to carry out an eviction where necessary.
The above processes come as a welcome move by the Home Office, following calls from the NLA and others to ensure that landlords are not left applying to the courts for possession following the removal of tenants by the Home Office, or the abandonment of property by those leaving the country or evading the authorities.
We expect the number of cases requiring the use of the new processes to be very small, but they serve to reassure landlords uncertain about the risks of letting to individuals with limited leave to remain and should reduce the costs borne by the minority directly affected.