Government announces huge new fines for letting to or employing illegal migrants

Published on 15.08.23
Published on 15.08.23

The government has announced it will substantially increase the fines for landlords and employers who rent to or employ foreign nationals who do not have the right to live or work in the UK. This article examines the new rules and what these mean for landlords and employees.

The announcement was made by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who said the government was taking action to “crack down on illegal immigration”. He said the new fines would “send a clear message” to landlords and employers that they would be held accountable for breaking the law.

The new rules are part of the government’s continued focus on reducing illegal immigration, with Jenrick saying: “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.”

The new fines will come into force at the beginning of 2024.

What are the new fines?

The new fines will be as follows:

  • For landlords, the fines will rise 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 (increased from £500 and £3,000).
  • For employers, the fine for employing an illegal immigrant will increase from £15,000 to £45,000 for a first breach and from £20,000 to £60,000 for a repeat breach.

The government says the new fines are necessary to deter landlords and employers from renting to or employing illegal immigrants. It argues that the current fines are not high enough and are not a sufficient deterrent.

The government has said enforcement activity against illegal immigration is at its highest level since 2019 and 50% higher than last year. Home Office data states that 5,000 civil penalties have been issued to employers since 2018, totalling £88.4m. More than 320 civil penalties have been issued to landlords in the same period, with total penalties amounting to £215,500.

What should landlords and employers do?

Robert Jenrick said: “There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks, and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.” Clearly, landlords and employers cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand.

All UK employers should conduct a right to work check before they employ someone, whether for a full-time or part-time role. The Home Office has issued guidance on how to carry out right to work checks.

Landlords should conduct a right to rent check to establish whether a tenant or lodger can legally rent a residential property in England. All tenants over 18 occupying the property must be checked whether or not they are named on the tenancy agreement and even if there is no written tenancy agreement. For more information, see the Home Office guidance on right to rent checks.

Businesses should ensure that everyone responsible for letting to a tenant or employing a new employee is thoroughly aware of the checks that need to be carried out.

If you have any queries in relation to the above, please contact Daniel Broughton at [email protected].

Disclaimer: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied on as formal advice. We suggest you take professional legal advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.