Employers and landlords
face sharp rise in 'illegal
migrant' fines

The UK government has announced that from next year, it will significantly increase civil penalties for “unscrupulous” employers and landlords who employ or let property to illegal migrants. In the biggest shake-up of civil penalties since 2014, fines are to be more than tripled for those found to have offered work or accommodation to anyone without a legal right to be in the UK.

The civil penalty for employers will be increased to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach instead of the current £15,000, whilst repeat breaches could be liable for a penalty of up to £60,000 instead of the current £20,000.

For landlords, the fines will increase from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for a first breach to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier. Repeat breaches will be up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, up from £500 and £3,000 respectively. The higher penalties will come into force at the start of 2024.

The move comes as part of an increased government focus on the issue of irregular migration to the UK, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats”. Ministers hope that higher fines will serve as a deterrent to asylum seekers crossing the Channel and the people smugglers who often use the promise of jobs and housing to encourage migrants to make the dangerous journey.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “Making it harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK is vital to deterring dangerous, unnecessary small boat crossings. Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue. There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks.”

According to Home Office data, almost 5,000 civil penalties have been issued to employers since 2018, with a total value of £88.4m. In the same period, over 320 civil penalties worth a total of £215,500 were issued to landlords.

The Home Office has also stepped up its immigration enforcement activity this year, with official visits targeting illegal working up by 50% to the highest level since 2019. As a result of this increased activity, more arrests have already taken place in 2023 than during the whole of 2022.

Employers and landlords should already be checking the eligibility of anyone they employ or let a property to. There are a number of ways to do this, which are not changing. Below is a brief reminder on how to conduct the appropriate right to work and right to rent checks.

Right to work checks

All UK employers must conduct a right to work check on every individual they intend to hire, in order to prevent illegal working. These checks must be carried out before the individual starts work, and should be done for every job, whether it’s full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary.

There are different ways employers can carry out a compliant right to work check. The type of check you conduct will depend on a number of factors, including the individual’s nationality and the type of permission they hold. You can:

  • Check the applicant’s original documents.
  • Check the applicant’s right to work online, if they have given you their ‘share code’.
  • Check the applicant’s right to work using an Identity Service Provider (IDSP) that offers Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT).

More information on conducting right to work checks can be found here.

Right to rent checks

Landlords must conduct a right to rent check to determine whether a tenant or lodger can legally rent any residential property in England. You must check all tenants aged 18 or over, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement, if the tenancy agreement is not in writing or if there is no tenancy agreement.

You do not need to check tenants that are in the following types of accommodation:

  • Social housing
  • A care home, hospice or hospital
  • A hostel or refuge
  • A mobile home
  • Student accommodation
  • Accommodation provided by a local authority
  • Accommodation provided as part of their job (known as ‘tied accommodation’)
  • Accommodation with a lease that’s 7 years or longer.

There are different types of right to rent check. You can:

  • Check the tenant’s original documents.
  • Check the tenant’s right to rent online, if they have a ‘share code’.
  • Check the tenant’s right to rent using an Identity Service Provider (IDSP) that offers Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT).

More information on conducting right to rent checks can be found here.

Support with immigration compliance

With the increased penalties set to come in from early 2024, employers and landlords should take this opportunity to ensure they are up to date with the legal requirements and that the correct checks have been carried out on all current employees and tenants.

Should you require more information or training for your staff on immigration compliance, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to a qualified immigration advisor about your requirements, please contact us today.

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