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Take fines threat over immigration seriously, lawyers warn

Take fines threat over immigration seriously, lawyers warn

Landlords and agents face a very real possibility of heavy fines under proposed new immigration laws, a law firm has warned.

The fines could well run into millions and they also run the risk of loss of rent.

New rules, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will make it mandatory for landlords or their agents to check the immigration status of tenants. If they do not, or let to tenants who are living illegally in this country, they could face heavy fines.

Property specialists Moore Blatch say that, based on the experiences of employers, the threat should not be taken lightly.

In the first four years following the introduction of a similar set of rules designed to curb employment of illegal workers, the UK Border Agency issued nearly 7,000 notifications of liability, resulting in £65m of fines.

There are 4.8 million UK private sector businesses, and two million private landlords, suggesting that fines in the private rented sector could theoretically run into several millions over a similar period.
 
Under employment law, an employer can be prosecuted and fined up to £10,000 for employing illegal workers, including:
 
•         people from Romania or Bulgaria without permission to work    
•         students with expired visas, or working more hours than they’re allowed
•         people on a visitor’s visa

Paul Walshe, of Moore Blatch, which runs an online service called Property Reclaim for landlords and agents to gain possession of properties, said: “Many landlords already have stringent checks in place, but few will be conducting checks to see if a tenant can legally live in the UK.

“The rules have yet to be put into law, and we don’t know if checks will be retrospective,  but we do know that it will add to the already heavy administrative and legislative burden that private landlords face and we advise them to start preparing now.
 
“Currently a tenant may be living illegally but paying rent. But if tenants are identified as illegal, landlords should not assume that they will continue to pay rent, safe in the knowledge that they might well be deported.”