Going over a draft of the Immigration Bill, the Residential Landlords Association spotted a potentially disastrous flaw in the wording of Clause 17. If left unaltered, it would be impossible for landlords to enforce payment or take back possession of a property if they fail to correctly check the immigration status of their tenant. This would allow the illegal tenant to continue living in the property, rent-free, until the authorities have dealt with it. If the tenant appeals deportation, it could be a process that keeps the landlord from earning rent on the property for months.
The landlord would have that to face on top of the penalty for breaching the legislation, which if possible even if they check identity documents, as failure to spot a forgery is considered the same as not checking at all. The RLA has argued for the clause to be rewritten.
Immigration minister Mark Harper responded by saying, “I agree that the wording of clause 17, when read in isolation from the rest of the Bill and when taken with recent case law, does risk introducing some potential ambiguity in relation to the wider validity of a tenancy contract.
“I share the Association’s concern to avoid this occurring and I am pleased to inform you that I intend to table a technical amendment at the Commons Committee stage which will make clear that nothing in this chapter affects the validity of any residential tenancy agreement.”
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