How do I check if my tenants are legal?

I was told that under a new law I could be fined heavily if any of my tenants turn out to be illegal immigrants. What is the correct situation?
Question: I have let properties for years but last night in the pub I was told that under a new law I could be fined heavily if any of my tenants turn out to be illegal immigrants. It's news to me. What is the correct situation please? 

Answer: The Immigration Act 2014 requires landlords of residential premises to check the immigration status of prospective tenants to ensure they have permission to be in the UK.

Since December 1 last year, "right to rent" checks are being piloted in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, but the intention is to introduce the scheme throughout Britain during the course of this year.

Right to rent rules require landlords and letting agents in these areas to check that someone has the right to live in the UK before letting a residential property to them. This includes landlords who sublet property or who take in lodgers, and it applies to new tenancies which started last December 1, or after that date. To check a prospective tenant's identity or citizenship, the landlord must see a passport or a biometric residence permit which is an acceptable form of identification.

Checks do not need to be carried out in respect of tenancies created before last December 1. If a landlord lets a property to someone who does not have the right to rent, that landlord could be fined up to £3,000.

Many landlords already check on the creditworthiness and identity of prospective tenants, but there are also unscrupulous landlords who do not, and who also let substandard or illegal accommodation to immigrants. The Act is intended to prevent this practice.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. 

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor. 

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