Measures announced today to crack down on illegal immigrants obtaining housing could lead to lawful tenants being denied a home say landlords asked to do immigration checks.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is concerned that there is insufficient support for landlords to check documents which are unfamiliar to them. It can take up to 48 hours for a document to be verified whereas landlords make instant decisions for those with a UK or EU passport with an easily recognisable right to be in the UK.
The impact will be, especially in areas of high demand like London, where many landlords will not want to take the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the law and so may deny accommodation to those who are entitled to be in the UK.
The RLA will be meeting the Home Office tomorrow (Tuesday) to learn more of the impact of the pilot scheme running in the West Midlands, where landlords are required to check the immigration status of a tenant.
While strongly supporting action to deal with landlords who persistently house illegal immigrants and who now face possibly five years in prison, the RLA is calling for the identification and prosecution of persistent offenders to be adequately resourced so as to be a real deterrent.
Responding to the announcement, RLA Chairman, Alan Ward said:
“The RLA welcomes proposals to simplify repossession when an illegal immigrants has been identified by the Home Office. What we need is clarification as to how long this process will take.
“We also support a crack-down on rogue landlords exploiting illegal immigration, but it is not fair to put all the burden on landlords. They are not immigration officers and cannot be expected to readily identify documents and visas with which they are totally unfamiliar and it will require adequate resourcing.
“Given the increased penalties announced today, landlords will err on the side of caution and may deny accommodation to those fully entitled to it.
“Given the existing confusion over Right to Rent checks and documents the addition of a new criminal penalty seems premature, especially as the consultation in the West Midlands has not yet finished.
“As always, it is the responsible landlords who will face the brunt of these stringent measures so we need assurances that they will get the support they need to make rapid assessments whilst also knowing that there will be sufficient resources deployed to identify the criminal landlords who are exploiting illegal immigrants.”
- The RLA represents almost 20,000 private sector residential landlords in England and Wales.
- The Prime Minister’s speech is available here
- In September 2014, the Home Office announced that the West Midlands would be the first area of the country to pilot landlords being legally responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants. The press release said that it would be phased in throughout the country only “following an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands.” The press release is available here
- Section 33 of the Deregulation Act 2015 gives tenants greater rights to resist eviction where they make a complaint about standards in a rental property. The section can be found here Similar provisions are included in the Renting Homes Bill currently being considered in the Welsh Assembly.
- The March 2015 Budget outlined plans to make it easier for tenants to sub-let their properties. Details can be found on page 95 of the Red Book, available here
- Details of landlords’ powers to regain possession of their property under the 1988 Housing Act can be found here
- On 12 th March 2015, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP announced that any council looking to introduce a licensing scheme covering more than 20% of their area, or 20% of local privately rented homes, would need to get permission from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Minister dubbed such licensing as a “tenants’ tax.” His comments can be read here