The country’s landlords could find themselves embroiled in a ‘financial nightmare’ if they ignore proposed Whitehall-led rules which will see them made to vet immigrant tenants, says a property expert.
Property specialist Julia Williams is concerned that potentially thousands of private landlords could overlook the new law when, following a consultation, it is introduced later this year.
The rental sector changes are part of the government’s controversial Immigration Bill which was introduced in the recent Queen’s speech. The Bill aims to crackdown on illegal immigrants in the UK and would require all landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants and ensure they hold official Home Office documents.
As part of the plans, the government also wants to introduce tough financial penalties for landlords who could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant if they repeatedly break the law.
Ms Williams, director at Midland property management specialists Premier Places, said that there are ‘countless’ implications for landlords who fail to adhere to what many have described as a ‘new layer of bureaucratic red tape’.
She said: “There is no doubt that the Home Office is seeking to expose the small number of criminal landlords who operate within the industry but these proposals could see many unsuspecting landlords across the UK being caught completely off guard if they aren’t up to speed.
“The government is proposing some heavy fines which some landlords are upset about. But there are also some who are well aware of the looming changes and are protesting loudly as they believe the government expects the property industry to deliver its immigration policy – shifting blame onto the private sector.
“But my biggest fear is that some landlords turn a blind eye. Those landlords are at huge risk of getting caught up in a financial nightmare because they haven’t taken the time to understand how quickly the landscape could change later this year.”
Ms Williams said that she believes the plans have generated negative headlines for the government. She added that industry leaders are calling on Minister for Immigration Mark Harper to ensure the certain-to-be-introduced law doesn’t increase costs to renters.
She added: “Most people across the industry realise that the new rules will be ushered in later this year. There’s no stopping them in reality. However there are some private landlords who are blissfully unaware, some who don’t want to engage and others who are keen to learn more.
“The rule of thumb is the same for all – seek professional guidance today to understand what it means for you and your property portfolio tomorrow. There are countless implications for those who don’t.”
The consultation will run until 21 August 2013.
Home Office Enforcement Officers recently carried out pilot raids on three properties in the south-east of England which they suspected were housing illegal immigrants. The raids led to the arrest of seven men for overstaying offences.
To assist landlords, the Home Office will also publish guidelines and launch a new helpline.
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