Landlord Assist has voiced concern over legal changes which will oblige letting agents and landlords to police the immigration status of tenants.
The new rules, which form part of the Immigration Bill and are due to become mandatory in 2015, will mean agents and landlords must carry out certain checks on new tenancy agreements before allowing the tenant to move in. Failure to do so could result in landlords facing a fine of up to £3,000.
The Government says it will carry out a pilot scheme in one location in the UK in two months' time to check a tenant's right to be in the country. The location is yet to be announced.
It is thought that up to 85% of illegal immigrants end up living in privately rented accommodation. The legislation is being introduced to stop rogue landlords letting substandard property to low paid immigrants.
Stephen Parry, commercial director at Landlord Assist, is concerned about the additional red tape for agents and landlords and says without proper education and training it is not viable for them to carry the additional responsibility.
Agents already undertake identity checks on prospective tenants but to be able to decipher Home Office documentation or visa documents is probably a bridge too far, he says.
“We accept that agents should make efforts in this respect but feel it is unfair that they can have such a significant financial penalty hanging over them in the event that something gets passed them. It seems logical that if the Government wish landlords and their agents to carry out a specific function that they should provide appropriate guidance notes on how to do so.”
The firm says landlords who do not use an agent to let their properties should be mindful that they may be targeted by individuals who do not have the necessary documentation.