Immigrants checks by Landlords are in doubt again as ministers get “cold feet” over the proposed new legislation.
Signs are emerging that the government may have to back-off from imposing fines on landlords who fail to carry out proper checks before renting to illegal immigrants.
According to a report published in the Daily Mail Saturday, ministers are now reconsidering a measure to fine landlords up to £3,000 because this could criminalise thousands of small landlords owning just one or two second homes.
The new measure, introduced this year in the Queen’s speech, and now planned for legislation in a new Immigration Bill, would make all private landlords legally responsible to check the migration status of every tenant before renting out a room or house.
A first offence would result in a fine of £1,000 per illegal immigrant in their property, and further offenders would be forced to pay £3,000 per tenant. It was further suggested this could extend to families taking in lodgers, with proposed fines of between £80 and £5,000 per illegal immigrant.
However, according to the Mail, both Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers are warning that the proposal risks chaos if it results in criminalising hundreds of thousands of the 1.6m middle-class families who rent out their own or second homes.
Ministers consulted are suggesting there may have to be amendments to exclude nine out of ten of those property owners with just one or two second homes, with a new focus on larger portfolio and corporate landlords. Officials, it seems, have confirmed the legislation may need to be reined in and that it would be subject to testing by way of small scale pilots, though there are now some signs the idea could be totally abandoned.
A U-turn on this would be embarrassing for the Government, which also faces humiliation on a minor fiasco created by a recent judge’s ruling on legislation covering tenancy deposit protection.
Introduced by the then Labour government in 1977, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (DPS) legislation, which was amended in 2012, has thrown the landlord fraternity into chaos following a high court ruling in the Superstrike case (Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues 2013).
Many hundreds of landlords who thought they had followed the rules correctly are now at risk of heavy fines and being unable to evict their bad tenants through the courts because of this new interpretation of what is generally considered in the industry to have been a very badly drafted law.
Further, many landlords are now falling victim to “ambulance chasing” lawyers promoting their services on the Internet to tenants and willing to pursue “technical” claims on their behalf on a no-win-no-fee basis because their landlords did not follow the DPS rules to the letter of the law.