Council Tax Collections – A Handy Tip
When dealing with buy-to-let properties with a high turnover of occupants, it can sometimes be difficult keeping track of who is in occupation.
Information provided is not always reliable and there is sometimes a question over the tenancy agreements provided as “proof” that a certain individual is responsible for council tax (and therefore not the landlord).
Credit searches can be a useful verification, but they are not always available as a resource and some individuals simply may not show up because they have not made the relevant applications.
The Immigration Act 2014 requires landlords of residential premises to check the immigration status of prospective tenants and other occupiers, to ascertain whether those parties have the right to be in the UK. If they fail to comply, they may be fined up to £3,000. The obligations apply throughout England from 1 February 2016.
These requirements provide a useful check that can be made with landlords as a back-up to a tenancy agreement, particularly where there is some doubt as to whether that is a genuine document.
What tenancy agreements does the Act apply to?
The tenancy agreement grants one or more adults the right to occupy the premises as their only or main residence.
The tenancy agreement provides for a payment of rent (whether or not a market rent, and any sum paid in the nature of rent).
Does it apply to existing tenancies?
The requirements only apply to residential tenancy agreements entered into on or after 1 February 2016. The requirements do not apply to renewals after 1 February 2016 provided the renewal is made between the same parties and there is no break in the tenant’s occupation.
What is the landlord required to check?
The landlord must identify the adults who will occupy the premises as their only or main residence and obtain originals of one or more of acceptable documents, check those originals and retain copies for the duration of the tenancy agreement and for at least one year thereafter. The list of acceptable documents includes:
- A passport.
- National identity card.
- Registration certificate indicating permanent residence.
- Biometric residence permit card.
- Immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office.
- Birth Certificate issued in the UK.
- Evidence of previous or current service in the UK Armed Forces.
(This is not an exhaustive list but simply demonstrates that there is a wide-ranging number of documents available to landlords to be checked in relation to immigration status).
What about the Data Protection Act?
A landlord should not be able to hide behind the Data Protection Act. Section 29 provides an exemption in relation to the collection of tax which it is suggested should enable landlords to provide copy documents. It is suggested as a matter of best practice that copies of the documents should not be retained by the council, but simply viewed in order to verify any other information provided such as a tenancy agreement.