Leading Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons has welcomed proposals to make landlords check the immigration status of tenants, but questions whether the plans could really work in practice.

In the recent Queen’s Speech it was announced that a Bill would be introduced to reform Britain’s Immigration System and force landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants.

But there are fears among some professionals that the legislation would affect only private landlords, and not those in the public sector.

Nyree Applegarth, partner in Higgs’ Property Dispute Resolution team, said: “There are a number of issues that will have to be overcome to make the checks work in practice and be easily adopted.

“Currently, any prudent landlord will ask to see some ID from a new tenant, usually their passport. But if the Bill were to become law, the landlord would in future need to check whether the passport was issued by an EU country or whether it has a UK visa in it with an expiry date, and be satisfied that the tenant is lawfully residing in the UK.

“In principle this is hardly an excessive additional burden – but what would happen if the prospective tenant has a valid visa when the tenancy starts but it expires during the tenancy? Will a landlord’s responsibility be to continually check a passport where the visa may expire during the tenancy period?”

Nyree pointed out that the entire system would rely on tenants being co-operative and allowing a landlord to frequently check their passports. What is not addressed, she adds, is what action a landlord is supposed to take when the tenant does not allow the landlord to re-examine their passport – especially where there is a suspicion that a visa may not have been renewed?

She added: “Would the new rules also preclude anyone from leasing a property if they did not have any suitable ID or a passport and could not produce a birth certificate for example? Would that mean that they were unable to let any property from the private landlord? And would agents be expected to undertake the checks on behalf of landlords and if so could they impose further administration charges on the tenants?”

Combined with a landlord’s duty to lodge any residential tenancy deposit in a Government approved scheme, and serve prescribed information on a tenant within 30 days, the obligations on private landlords look set to become even more onerous.

“Property letting is already fraught with potential pitfalls. Failing to comply properly with tenancy deposit protection can lead to a landlord being unable to evict a tenant from their property, or expose a landlord to a financial claim for failing to properly protect the deposit.

Perhaps the additional burden of a landlord having to check a tenant’s immigration status will deter landlords from continuing to let properties altogether.

To find out how Nyree and her team can assist with tenancy issues call 0845 111 5050 or email nyree.applegarth@higgsandsons.co.uk.