Immigration Bill's landlord proposals slammed as 'reckless'

Immigration Bill's landlord proposals slammed as 'reckless'

The controversial Immigration Bill, which will force private landlords to carry out immigration checks on tenants, is due to come into effect next October.

One opponent called the proposals “reckless”.

But there is already speculation that there will be a trial in one area before any political decision is made over national implementation.

The Liberal Democrats are opposed to the scheme, saying it will drive illegal immigrants further underground and strengthen the hand of unscrupulous landlords.

Home secretary Theresa May says the aim of the Bill is to “create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants”. According to the Home Office, more than 85% of new migrants live in private rented accommodation.

Under the Bill, landlords would face fines of up to £3,000 if they fail to make checks. There will also be penalties for households that take in lodgers, and also tenants who take in sub-tenants, and do not check on their immigration status.

The Liberal Democrats’ reservations include concerns that it will also place a unrealistic regulatory burden on millions of private landlords.

The Home Office says an online resource and helpline will be available to help landlords make the checks, including offering advice on how to question potential tenants. It stressed that it is not trying to turn private landlords into immigration experts.

However, the British Property Federation accused the Government of trying to do just that. It said that prosecuting landlords for failing to recognise complex immigration documents was wrong. It said it was reckless to proceed with the proposals, and called for them to have a sunset clause after three years.

BPF director Ian Fletcher said: “As things stand, landlords will be open to prosecution immediately on occupancy. What happens if they cannot access the website, or the real-time helpline does not respond? We suggest a fairer a solution would be to allow a compliance period of two weeks to allow landlords to check and record documents.”
 ?Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the Bill could have the unintended consequence of affecting people who do not look British.

He said: “Checking immigration status is complicated, so landlords may shy away from letting to anyone who appears not to be British. Discrimination laws will not protect these people. In trying to take a stance against illegal immigration, the Government could cause significant housing problems for people who are here legally.”

The Bill will, however, have an option for tenants to obtain confirmation from the Home Office that they will be allowed to rent property, even if they have no paperwork such as a passport, the document which most landlords will have to ask to see.

In new advice to landlords, the Home Office also said that landlords will not have to check existing tenants as from October 2014 – only new ones.

The Residential Landlords Association called for the entire Bill to be dropped. RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “Many British people do not have a passport.

“Whilst the RLA fully supports measures to ensure everyone in the UK is legally allowed to be here, this proposal smacks of political posturing rather than a seriously thought through policy.

“For a Government committed to reducing the burden of red tape it is ironic that they are now seeking to impose a significant extra burden on landlords, making them scapegoats for the UK Border Agency’s failings.”