Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) research reveals that there is unease about the potential responsibilities outlined in the Immigration Bill*, even among landlords with considerable experience in the sector.
The Government’s recent Immigration Bill proposes that landlords should be responsible for checking the immigration status of prospective tenants. ARLA’s data shows that over half (55.2%) of landlords are not confident making the checks suggested** and one in five (21.8%) did not know if they would be able to make the checks. Only 22.9% said they did feel confident in their ability to conduct the checks.
This concern comes despite the fact that the majority of landlords are highly experienced and have entered into the lettings sector as a long term investment. According to ARLA’s latest report, the average landlord is now 54 years old, and owns a record average of almost nine properties (8.7). This average figure for the number of properties owned is the highest seen since 2004 when comparative ARLA records began.
Landlords are also holding on to their properties for a record amount of time. The average respondent said they believed the life expectancy of their asset was 19.9 years, exceeding the previous peak (19.8 years), recorded in Q4 2012. This longer lifespan of property ownership perhaps accounts for the fact that a significant minority (16%) of landlords still have properties with energy ratings of F or G.
Ian Potter, Managing Director of ARLA, said: “Checking the immigration status of prospective tenants is a sensitive and potentially lengthy task. It’s perhaps not surprising that even experienced landlords are concerned about exercising these new duties. While landlords recognise a degree of responsibility for this issue, the sheer variety of documentation alone adds a new layer of complexity to the whole process. It is essential that landlords collaborate with the Government where possible to ensure the final Immigration Bill is workable when passed.
“Our research shows the majority of landlords have invested for the long haul, and are therefore well aware of their existing responsibilities. However I would urge anyone who is seeking expert advice on a new tenancy, is re-letting a property, or is entering the sector for the first time to consult with an ARLA agent. All ARLA licensed agents must adhere to a strict code of conduct, as well as offering client money protection and redress schemes, which protect all involved parties if things should go wrong.”
• *Details of the Immigration Bill can be found here: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/immigration.html
**The data from the ARLA Members’ Survey of the Private Rented Sector, covering Q4 2013, was drawn from 643 member offices. Together with the ARLA Survey of Residential Investment Landlords, November 2013 – conducted among 1,285 landlords – the report forms the ARLA Review and Index. The Review and Index is available at: http://www.arla.co.uk/buy-to-let/buy-to-let-review/2013/