Landlords have been seeking clarification about the government’s plans for immigration controls to be put onto landlords following the immigration crisis, announced in the press this week.
With threats of jail terms for those who let properties to illegal migrants, seen by some as a knee-jerk reaction to the scenes of chaos in Calais, landlords are demanding to know more about how the government’s plans are to be implemented.
Although the Immigration Bill has been a hot topic for some time in landlord circles, especially as one landlord in the West Midlands trial of “right-to-rent” checks had a £2,000 fine imposed for non-compliance, this latest revelation appears to up the ante.
We are told the forthcoming Immigration Bill will contain a new criminal offence aimed at those rogue landlords and letting agents who repeatedly fail to conduct “right to rent” checks, intended to determine the immigration status of tenants, or fail to evict illegals from their properties.
In addition, ministers have said, the bill will also make it quicker and easier for landlords to evict tenants when the Home Office says they do not have the right to stay in the UK.
It was announce by ministers on Monday that landlords and agents who fail to comply face up to five years’ in jail, or fines up to £3,000, and could then be “blacklisted” from letting properties under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced that the government is determined to show that the UK is not a “land of milk and honey” and also defended the government’s moves to strip families of benefits if their asylum applications were rejected.
Mr Brokenshaw said ministers were looking to remove the support being handed out for over 10,000 failed asylum seekers in family groups who under the current rules are still being housed and paid a weekly £36 allowance, even if their asylum claims are rejected.
It is clear the government has those rogue landlords in its sights who are known to house illegals in overcrowded and unsafe accommodation in many of the UKs biggest cities. These landlords take on tenants without checks, knowing they are here illegally and in no position to complain about the conditions they are being housed in.
Responsible landlords already carry out basic checks and references so in most cases adding ID and residency checks will not be too onerous, and as it’s a legal requirement, it could in fact make the landlord or agent’s job easier – a prospective tenant would no longer be in a position to refuse to produce personal documentation.
However, so as not to fall foul of the discrimination laws, landlords and agents will need to apply exactly the same checks to UK nationals as they would to foreign nationals – everyone will have to be treated the same.
David Lawrenson of Letting Focus, a property consultant, told the Financial Times newspaper the bill was not aimed at the law-abiding majority of the UK’s estimated 2m buy-to-let landlords.
“This is aimed at the black economy, where substandard overcrowded accommodation is often linked to the illegal employment of migrants and forms one part in a chain of criminality.
“The publicity surrounding the bill means that incompetent but straight landlords will now be more likely to carry out the right to rent checks but the rogue landlords still won’t bother — though the five-year sentence will be more of a deterrent.”
Right to Rent checks are currently being trialled in the Midlands before being rolled out to the rest of England later this year. Details about the trial and roll-out are yet to be released but David Cox, MD of Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), said feedback from their members in pilot areas had been very positive.
“Conducting ID checks on tenants has been in our code of practice for years, though some tenants have been unwilling to show passports and visa documentation. Now it’s the law, it makes things easier for landlords and their agents.”
Questions remain though about how these new suggestions on quick evictions will work in practice.
It’s currently a criminal offence to remove tenants without a court order. Obtaining that order can take months and a bailiff is needed to actually evict tenants, usually taking a further few weeks. Just how this new measure announced by Mr Brokenshaw will work is unclear.
The whole thing raises many questions: who pays for the eviction which, could be costly and very time consuming? What happens to the evicted illegal immigrants, will they just disappear? Will the process comply with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family and private life? What if children are involved?
Communities Secretary Greg Clark has said that cases involving tenants that refuse to move out will still end up in court but that the process would be quicker as landlords will have official Home Office evidence to present to the court.
When asked if evicting a tenant would not just result in them disappearing, unless they were handed to the police, Mr Clark said the new initiative was part of “joined-up system to send people home”.
See “New measures to crackdown on illegal immigrants renting properties” – here
The Immigration Crisis and Landlords – http://t.co/mcXvhiHqFD
— LandlordZONE® (@LandlordZONE) August 5, 2015