Immigration Checks for tenants from 1st February 2016

While the UK debates whether to stay in the EU or not Immigration checks have sneaked in at the beginning of this month for Private Landlords with a fine of £3,000 per unlawful occupier; straining the pockets of small Landlords and Agents if they are uninformed.

A trial scheme started on 1 December 2014 in the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton and the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall and has now rolled out from 1st February 2016.

The Law

Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 a landlord should not authorise an adult to occupy property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, or a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national, or has a ‘right to rent’ in the UK. Someone will have the ‘right to rent’ in the UK provided they are present lawfully in accordance with immigration laws.

What needs to be done?

All new tenancies require ALL new tenants over 18, even if they are not named on the agreement, there is no agreement or if it is not in writing, to be checked. A child does not need to be checked as long you are reasonably satisfied they are under 18.

Checks have to be performed without regard to race, religion or other protected characteristics or equality grounds as specified in the Equality Act 2010 or the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, on all adults who will be living at the property.

The only exemptions to checks are if the accommodation is:

  • Social Housing,
  • Holiday Accommodation (not used as main home);
  • Local Authority Housing,
  • Care Homes,
  • Hospitals,
  • Hostel and Refuge,
  • Mobile Homes,
  • Long Leases,
  • Student accommodation
  • House Guest if not paying rent and not living there as main accommodation; and accommodation tied to employment. It therefore covers any lease, licence, sub-lease, sub-tenancy or Lodgers agreement.

How to check

Confirm if this will be tenant’s main home as they will be there the majority of the time, most belongings there, registered at doctors there; see original documents allowing tenant to remain in the country; check their photographs on the documents, names, date of births and confirm as far as possible if they are genuine and valid; Make and keep copies of all documents. Ensure it is a good quality copy, for passports copy every page, both sides of biometric card, record dates on all documents and keep then for at least 1 year after the tenant leaves the accommodation. If the tenant states the Home Office has their documents, check online and you should get a reply in about 2 days.

Further checks needed: If the tenant has time restrictions to stay in UK, you have to check again either at the time of expiry or 12 months (whichever is later). If they do not have the right to remain you have to tell the home office and can evict BUT the correct procedure needs to be followed.

Fines – what are they and who is liable?

If the checks have not been done, you can get a Civil Penalty of £3000 per occupier in the Accommodation under s23 of the Immigration Act.

In regards to who is liable to pay:

If an agent is managing the property or asked to do the checks they would be liable for any fines; unless he warns the Landlord beforehand of potential contraventions prior to agreement being signed.

If the property has been sublet then the person subletting is responsible unless he passes this on to the “head landlord”.

If a landlord acquires properties with sitting occupiers, the new landlord should confirm with the transferring landlord that document checks have been undertaken and retain evidence to demonstrate this. Careful note should be taken of whether and when further follow-up checks must be undertaken to ensure a statutory excuse against a penalty is maintained. If you pay within 21 days you can pay a sum 30% less.


S24 (and s26 for Agents) do give some defences to the fine.

If there is a penalty issued a landlord may object (within 28 days) on the following grounds:

  • they are not liable to pay the penalty (for example because they are not the landlord of the disqualified person) or
  • they have a statutory excuse (this means that they undertook the prescribed document checks and made any necessary reports) or
  • the level of penalty is too high (this means that the Home Office has miscalculated the amount of the penalty by reference to the wrong criteria)

Statutory excuse

There are 3 steps involved in establishing and maintaining a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty:

conduct initial right to rent checks before authorising an adult to occupy rented accommodation establish the adults who will live in the property as their only or main home obtain original versions of one or more of the acceptable documents for adult occupiers check the documents in the presence of the holder of the documents 7 make copies of the documents and retain them with a record of the date on which the check is made.

Conduct follow-up checks at the appropriate date if initial checks indicate that an occupier has a time-limited right to rent make a report to the Home Office if follow-up checks indicate that an occupier no longer has the right to rent. If following the objection the matter is still decided against them, they can then appeal to the courts in 28 days.

Help with Checks

To help you do the checks or information for the checks:

Government Landlord’s helpline 0300 069 9799 Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm Friday, 9am to 4:30pm

Or on the extensive Code of Guidance


From movie villains to mental health realities

One could argue that it is easier for someone to admit to having a serious and potentially life threatening tumour than to be suffering from a mental health illness, let’s say for example: schizophrenia.

Is it because of the movies we have seen when the villain is described as a schizophrenic, possessed stalker, with sadistic behavioural patterns?

Well, it certainly adds to an unfriendly picture with such conditions as “torturous maniacs stopping at nothing to reach their objective”.

Stereotypes and Stigma

As entertaining as it was the Joker in the film Batman: Dark Knight (2008) was consider by most a “supervillain”, who embodies themes of chaos, anarchy and obsession. Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) described the Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”

These interpretations of someone with mental illness like schizophrenia further emphasises the stereotype and the stigma around people with such serious illnesses.

Does admitting to suffering from a mental health issue almost feel like adopting a likeness to these “villains” which we all love to hate?

In a recent trip to the London Aquarium I was surprised to learn that Sharks are not these blood thirsty creatures that prey on surfers on beaches. Apparently Sharks don’t even enjoy the taste of human blood and merely attack when they feel under threat (Who knew).

The label attached to Sharks is to larger extent been attributed to their depiction in the iconic Steven Spielberg movie Jaws. (If you haven’t watched it, the movie begins with a shark attacking a couple swimming late at night, later on the Great White Shark goes on a killing spree; eating everything in its path!!! …..) I won’t spoil it for you but there is an epic ending; according to the Guardian newspaper it’s on the 100 movies to watch before you die.

The realities of mental health are very serious. The stigma surrounding mental health issues are such that individuals who may be suffering from these issues are not accessing the medical help and support that is so important for them to receive.

The trends in mental health illness are sadly increasing. The awareness campaigns are numerous and varied despite the downward trend there is some hope and that is that the trend for people seeking help and support is increasing.

This is goods news, as the impact of awareness campaigns in society in taking mental health more seriously can be seen, but there is still a long way to go.

How many people seek help and use services?

Treatment statistics

The 2014 APMS found that one adult in eight (12.1%) reported receiving mental health treatment, with 10.4% receiving medication and 3% receiving psychological therapy. The overlap within the statistics is due to 1.3% of those receiving treatment reporting receiving both medication and psychological therapy.

For those with common mental health problems, 36.2% reported receiving treatment. The proportion of people with a common mental health problem using mental health treatment has significantly increased. Around one person in four aged 16–74 with symptoms of a common mental health problem was receiving some kind of mental health treatment in 2000 (23.1%) and 2007 (24.4%). By 2014, this has increased to more than one in three (37.3%) (see Figure 4a).”

Treatment Statistics

Source: Mental Health Foundation – “Fundamental Facts 2016” – a resource for everyone interested in good mental health and preventing mental health problems from developing.

More and more people are seeking help. In the recent study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), the key is “prevention” and/or “early intervention”. The sooner the support or help is received the more likely the chances of a better or quicker recovery.

Early intervention is really important, as it can help prevent further escalation in mental health deterioration, so knowing where to go to seek further help and assistance is essential. I have listed below numerous organisations that help specifically with mental health.

We lose, if we don’t help people with mental health illness.

The reality is if “we” don’t help people with mental health problems, our economy will also be hugely affected.

Just take look at the impact below:

The UK

The 2013 Chief Medical Officer’s report estimated that the wider costs of mental health problems to the UK economy are £70–100 billion per year – 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). However, estimating this figure is very complex and an earlier study carried out by Centre for Mental Health found that, taking into account reduced quality of life, the annual costs in England alone were £105.2 billion.


It is just staggering how much the UK economy is affected by mental health problems, although as stated above it’s a complex area, the cost of mental health problems is “£70-100 billion per year” is an astronomical figure.

The invisible illness has a very visible presence, apart from the financial affects, just think of the serious consequences on families and friends suffering from loved ones with mental health issues; which money cannot equate. So reaching out and helping is essential.

Support is not far!

If you feel you are suffering from any form of mental health issues do not let the erroneous perceptions surrounding mental health issues impede you from making yourself better; in the same way you would not hesitate to take a paracetamol if you had a head ache. (No brainer right)

Here are just some of the excellent organisations that help people with Mental Health problems:


Child Relocation – it doesn’t need to get Ugly

By their very nature relocation cases are often the most difficult to deal with as they are highly emotive and inevitably they will lead to one parent having less or no contact with their child.

Where the ‘non-moving’ parent has parental responsibility, the parent with primary care of a child will need to seek the permission of that parent to remove the child from the jurisdiction. In the absence of an agreement between parents, the parent wishing to relocate will have to make an application to the court, known as Specific Issue Application.

Where there is a living arrangements order in place, the resident parent may remove a child for up to 1 month at a time without consent of the other parent or courts permission.

When seeking to remove a child permanently from the jurisdiction of England and Wales, the dilemma for the court is being able to weigh up the rights of the primary carer to relocate and the rights of the ‘non-moving’ parent. Of paramount importance of course, is the welfare of the child and whether the proposed move is in the child’s best interests.

In deciding such cases the courts need to ensure the reasons for the proposed move is not driven by some selfish desire to exclude the non-moving parent from the child’s life, but that there are genuine reasons for the proposed relocation , which might include job opportunities, family support and or a better lifestyle.

For applications to succeed, it is important the moving parent is able to put forward good and realistic proposals for contact and demonstrate to the court that they have thought about how the child can still maintain a good relationship with the ‘non-moving’ parent, which is likely to involve the child travelling to the UK to have staying contact with the ‘non-moving’ parent 2-3 times a year. Consideration will need to be given as to which parent will fund the trips etc. In addition the relocating parent will need to consider weekly indirect contact and maybe some face to face contact in the form of skype calls etc.

In addition, the moving parent must be able to demonstrate to the court they have properly researched the proposed move and factored into their decision to move, education, medical care, housing etc.

The courts will of course have to examine the opposing parent’s opposition and determine whether the ‘non-moving’ parent is genuinely concerned about their child’s welfare or whether they have an ulterior motive for wanting the moving parent to remain.

The case law in this area has changed greatly in the last few years, especially where the courts are more often than not making shared care arrangement orders, which entails both parents being actively involved in a child’s life. The courts are increasingly refusing applications to relocate. That said the court will ned to consider the impact upon the moving parent if permission to relocate is denied as an unhappy , depressed and isolated mother could make for a unhappy child. Whether you wish to relocate with your child or oppose relocation, it is important to adopt the right strategy from the outset and it is paramount that early legal advice is sought.


New Bail Reforms

The new bail reforms came into force on Monday 3rd April 2017 and changed the way police are able to deal with suspects under criminal investigation. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and now makes it more stringent for police to keep a person ‘on bail’ whilst there is insufficient evidence to charge them with a criminal offence.

According to the Home Office, 400,000 people a year are placed on ‘pre-charge’ bail which often comes with restrictive conditions lasting for months or even years. There was no limit for how long police could keep a suspect on bail so many people were left in legal limbo and it wasn’t uncommon for them to develop anxiety and depression while they wait for police to decide their outcome.

From 3rd April 2017, there is a legal presumption that suspects will be released without bail and the use of any pre-charge bail will be an exception. Two criteria need to be fulfilled before it can be applied – (1) it must be necessary and proportionate and (2) it must be authorised by an officer of at least the rank of an inspector. The bail period is also to be limited to 28 days. Some say the 28-day limit would be unrealistic in complex cases but the period can still be extended up to a total of 3 months if authorised by an officer of at least the rank of a superintendent. Any extension beyond that must be authorised by a Magistrates.

It is a significant change for policing. Proponents of the changes and even those who criticised the initial proposals, recognise that no one should have the threat of potential prosecution hanging over them indefinitely. It is hoped that the new legislation will make the use of the pre-charge bail less common but it is unclear whether existing police matters will be affected and if the legislation applies retrospectively and whether charging decisions are likely to be sped up. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it would “bring about much-needed safeguards, public accountability and independent scrutiny, while ensuring the police can continue to do their vital work.” With only days into the new changes, there is a long wait to see if any issues or triumphs come to light.