Landlords expected to evict illegal immigrants
Landlords across the UK will be expected to evict tenants who lose the right to live in the UK under new measures to clamp down on illegal immigration.
UK communities secretary Greg Clark said the legislation will ensure anyone without the right to live in this country will find it more difficult to rent a home.
Measures will also be introduced to “crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who exploit the most vulnerable”.
The forthcoming Immigration Bill will enable landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants more easily, by giving them the means to end a tenancy when a person’s leave to remain in the UK ends - in some circumstances without a court order.
This will be triggered by a notice issued by the Home Office confirming that the tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK. The landlord would then be expected to take action to ensure that the illegal immigrant tenant or occupant leaves the property.
And under plans to extend across the country a pilot scheme started in the West Midlands, landlords will be also required to conduct “Right to Rent” checks on their tenants’ immigration status before offering a tenancy agreement.
There will also be a new criminal offence targeted at unscrupulous landlords and agents who repeatedly fail to conduct the “right to rent” checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrants from their property. These landlords may face a fine, up to 5 years imprisonment and further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Forthcoming legislation will create a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents, helping councils to focus their enforcement action on where it is most needed, and keeping track of those who have been convicted of housing offences.
And new measures will prevent a landlord or letting agent from renting out of properties if they are repeat offenders.
Other measures include:
- a new tougher fit and proper person test for landlords of properties that have to be licenced, to ensure they do not pose a risk to the welfare or safety of tenants
- extending Rent Repayment Orders so local authorities can claim back rent payments from landlords who abuse the Housing Benefit system by failing to ensure the property is maintained to a good standard
- enabling local authorities to issue penalty notices for certain civil offences, with the money retained by the council and used for housing purposes
- permitting the sharing of Tenancy Deposit Protection data to help councils crack down on rogue landlords who knowingly rent out unsafe and overcrowded accommodation
- enabling landlords to recover abandoned properties more quickly without the need to go to court.
Communities secretary Greg Clark said: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration – exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system.
“In future, landlords will be required to ensure that the people they rent their properties to are legally entitled to be in the country.
“We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties.”
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said UK national could be among those affected by the new laws.
She said: “Checking immigration status is complicated so landlords may shy away from letting to anyone they believe isn’t British, even if they have a legal right to live in the UK – especially if they face a jail sentence for getting it wrong. For many people, private renting is the only option, and if this is removed homelessness and destitution may follow. Illegal immigrants may actually be least affected, as they probably already have to use the sorts of landlords who ask no questions and will rent poor quality accommodation to anyone who’ll pay the rent.
“We think it is vital for the government to publish its evaluation of the right to rent pilot that has been taking place in the West Midlands.”
However, she added that new measures to crack down on rogue landlords could help improve standards for some tenants.
She said: “Measures to tackle rogue landlords are welcome, although we will need to see the detail – it’s important that local authorities are given the resources they need to enforce the new rules and that the majority of landlords who comply with the law aren’t burdened with unreasonable extra costs.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, believes that the Immigration Bill could impact on homeless people and force growing numbers onto the streets.
He said: “We strongly welcome the government’s plans to crack down on poor standards in the private rented sector. Too often landlords get away with renting out homes that are in a terrible condition. This needs to stop, and the measures announced today are an important first step in providing councils with the powers to tackle rogue landlords.
“However, we are worried that measures requiring landlords to check the immigration status of renters will make it even harder for homeless people to find a place to live. Their documents may have been lost or stolen, and in today’s high pressured rental market, landlords will be more likely to rent to someone who can provide the evidence quickly. As well as creating problems for homeless people, this could lead to discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
“Furthermore, making it easier for landlords to evict people without the correct immigration status could leave many facing homelessness. We need assurances from the government that robust plans will be put in place to make sure people who are unable to return home aren’t left homeless. We also need safeguards to ensure this ‘easier’ form of eviction isn’t open to abuse and used to evict tenants who do have the correct immigration status.
“We have serious concerns about measures in the Immigration Bill and the risk of driving up homelessness. However, other measures announced today will genuinely improve the private rented sector, but we need the Government to go even further, in particular by introducing a national register of landlords to help professionalise the sector.”
Landlords warned that the illegal immigrants housing crackdown could lead to lawful tenants being denied a home.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is concerned that there is insufficient support for landlords to check documents which are unfamiliar to them. It can take up to 48 hours for a document to be verified whereas landlords make instant decisions for those with a UK or EU passport with an easily recognisable right to be in the UK.
The impact will be, especially in areas of high demand like London, where many landlords will not want to take the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the law and so may deny accommodation to those who are entitled to be in the UK.
The RLA will be meeting the Home Office today to learn more of the impact of the pilot scheme running in the West Midlands, where landlords are required to check the immigration status of a tenant.
While strongly supporting action to deal with landlords who persistently house illegal immigrants and who now face possibly five years in prison, the RLA is calling for the identification and prosecution of persistent offenders to be adequately resourced so as to be a real deterrent.
Responding to the announcement, RLA chairman, Alan Ward said: “The RLA welcomes proposals to simplify repossession when an illegal immigrants has been identified by the Home Office. What we need is clarification as to how long this process will take.
“We also support a crack-down on rogue landlords exploiting illegal immigration, but it is not fair to put all the burden on landlords. They are not immigration officers and cannot be expected to readily identify documents and visas with which they are totally unfamiliar and it will require adequate resourcing.
“Given the increased penalties announced today, landlords will err on the side of caution and may deny accommodation to those fully entitled to it.
“Given the existing confusion over Right to Rent checks and documents the addition of a new criminal penalty seems premature, especially as the consultation in the West Midlands has not yet finished.
“As always, it is the responsible landlords who will face the brunt of these stringent measures so we need assurances that they will get the support they need to make rapid assessments whilst also knowing that there will be sufficient resources deployed to identify the criminal landlords who are exploiting illegal immigrants.”