Thursday, 20 October 2016

Airline immigration case just the ticket for landlords

While the worlds of lettings and budget air travel might appear disparate, landlords might want to show thanks to Ryanair after it successfully challenged a recent legal claim over an immigration dispute.

When the Home Office imposed a penalty on the budget airline after it was found that two Albanians had illegally entered the UK on a flight from Spain using forged Greek passports, Ryanair went to the Central London County Court to state a challenge.

Spanish officials had failed to notice the forgeries, but UK Border Force officers were more vigilant. As a result, the Home Office penalised Ryanair £2,000 for each Albanian, but the airline contested the charge.

Parallels are clearly drawn for landlords under the Right to Rent scheme, which stipulates that documentation has to be checked to ensure that potential tenants and other occupiers of a property aged 18 or over have a legal right to be here.

The Code of Practice that accompanied the implementation of the Immigration Act 2014, set out in the Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) Order 2014, says that landlords “will not be penalised, if, having taken all reasonable steps to check a document’s validity, they are fooled by a good forgery which appears to be genuine.”

The difficulty comes in knowing what a good forgery is, but the Ryanair case seems to give at least a clue as to a definition.

Two immigration officers gave statements that missing security elements in the passports used by the Albanians were in their view “reasonably apparent” to a member of airline staff and that they should have been spotted. However, other immigration officers in similar cases had found that the forgeries were not “reasonably apparent”. The Court took the view that missing security elements that are relatively hard to find, even for trained professionals, would not be reasonably apparent to busy airline staff, even though they have an annual refresher course.

Lisa Simon, 
Partner Head of Residential Lettings
T: 020 7518 3234 

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