Landlords who fail to correctly check the immigrant status of their tenants face fines of up to £3,000. The proposals are part of a consultation on the the Immigration Bill, to be introduced later this year, under which ministers intend to make life more difficult for illegal immigrants by denying them free NHS treatment and prohibiting them from renting in the UK.
Immigration minister Mark Harper said, “The consultation seeks views on the creation of a duty to require landlords to conduct immigration status checks on tenants before providing residential accommodation, with financial penalties for those landlords who let property to illegal migrants having failed to conduct the necessary checks.
“The landlord checking proposal is modelled on the existing civil penalty scheme for employers of illegal migrant workers.”
All private landlords will be required to carry out checks on the immigrant status of potential tenants before renting out a property to them. Failure to do so will result in fines. First time offenders will be fined £1,000 per illegal immigrant found in their property. Private landlords that have been sent an advisory letter or warning about not making the proper checks within the last three years will be fined £3,000 per illegal tenant. These rules also apply to letting agents.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association, said, “The NLA welcomes the Government’s consultation on its plans to require private landlords to check the immigration status of all new tenants.
“If this is to work, it is vital that the system is simple, straightforward and easy for landlords to use and understand.
“It makes sense to base the requirements on the established system used by employers to verify that individuals have the right to work in the UK, not least because there is a clear acknowledgement that employers, like landlords, are not immigration experts.
“They can only be expected to carry out reasonable checks that someone is who they say they are, and that they have the documentation to prove they have the right to be here.”
The Residential Landlords Association, however, was less enthusiastic about the proposals, saying that 82% of private landlords do not support being forced to carry out immigrant checks.
Alan Ward, the RLA’s chairman, said, “The private rented sector is already creaking under the weight of red tape, so it is little wonder that landlords are so clearly opposed to this flagship Government measure.
“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 regulation, 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.”
The published guidance states: “Landlords must make checks on a non-discriminatory basis, i.e. they should not make any assumptions about a person’s migration status based on their ethnicity, name, accent, etc.”
There is naturally a great deal of concern about just what is expected of landlords. According to the proposals, the checks private landlords will have to make be the same as those employers are required to make before hiring staff. But, of course, this is likely to result in more paperwork.
Tenants looking to rent will have to produce evidence from a checklist of documents to prove they are in the country legally. Landlords will be required to make copies of evidence for their records.
Landlords will have to check the papers of all adults who will be living in their property. The Home Office consultation said, “If a person cannot produce satisfactory evidence, the landlord should not rent accommodation to them.”
Valid documents include a British passport, or a combination of national insurance number, birth certificate and driving licence, right of abode certificate or naturalisation certificate.
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