Rental services firm offered ministers free immigrant check service

Rental services firm offered ministers free immigrant check service

A tenancy referencing firm approached the Government three years ago and offered an immigrants’ checking service which would have cost taxpayers nothing.

However, the offer was turned down flat.

It has emerged that in 2010, FCC Paragon offered the Government what it calls “a credible free solution” that it had already trialled with the UK Border Agency.

In 2010, after identifying growing concerns surrounding the verification of foreign nationals, Janie Gaston, operations director at FCC Paragon, wrote to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg offering a service which would check that tenants were entitled to be residing and working in UK.

Gaston said: “We like to think we are a forward thinking company and our experience in this field led us to recognise the issues and try to tackle it head on.”

By 2010 the firm was already concerned about the status of some foreign tenants. It says it had earlier set up a trial in conjunction with the “forward thinking” chief immigration officer at the UK Border Agency, specifically to deal with cases where there was uncertainty over an individual’s credentials.

This, says the firm,  proved successful in identifying some individuals who should not have been living and working in the UK, and FCC Paragon’s hope was to get the scheme rolled out nationally. However, says the firm, despite the fact that the proposal it outlined would have cost the Government nothing, they rejected it on grounds that they already had their own initiatives in place.

The firm has now voiced its anger over plans announced in the Queen’s Speech that will make landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of any potential tenant.

As part of their tenant referencing business, FCC Paragon says it comes across ‘numerous fraudulent applications’.

The firm, which provides a variety of services to the lettings industry, says the problem of tenants who should not be in the UK has also become apparent when assisting landlords with rent arrears.

In many cases, FCC Paragon says it has uncovered not just huge rent arrears, but sub-letting and substantive dilapidations.

The firm also says that on the occasions where foreign nationals are involved, it has been nigh on impossible to have any recourse for return of monies outstanding, as often they have absconded before being able to take any action. 
With landlords now set to face huge fines if they do not correctly check the immigration status of potential tenants, Gaston said: “This is just another regulatory burden for landlords and will not do anything to tackle immigration problems, as professional landlords will already be taking such measures via thorough tenant referencing.

“Landlords have not been provided with a solution. They don’t know where to go to verify documents or how long it will take, and most wouldn’t know if they were looking at a fraudulent document or not. This is a risky and careless step for the Government to have taken.”