Fears are building that the new Immigration Act could put landlords in physical danger. Under the new proposals, landlords will have to check the immigration status of all potential tenants, who will have to prove their right to stay within the United Kingdom.
However, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has warned that some tenants could become aggressive when asked to prove their eligibility. In addition, they claim that some landlords could be accused of harassment.
The Government responded by pointing out that a number of voluntary checks from certain landlords had uncovered a number of illegal immigrants and said that the new checks would be “straightforward.” In addition, ministers argue that property owners have “nothing to fear” by carrying out the checks.
Under the new proposals, landlords found to be renting to tenants that are not permitted to live in the UK will be subjected to fines of up to £3,000. The Home Office has promised to assist all landlords by providing answers on suspected illegal tenants within 48 hours of receiving the relevant documentation.
However, Richard Jones from the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) believes that these plans are “unworkable,” and that “very little” resources were being given to landlords in order to outline their exact requirements to fully cooperate with the bill.
immigration Act Could Jeopardise Landlord Safety
Jones points out that the Border Agency, with an estimated budget of £2 billion, has not been able to fully clamp down on illegal immigrants. As a result, Jones asks: “How can we expect a whole host of small landlords to do anything better than the Border Agency have been able to achieve?”
Carolyn Uphill, Chair of the NLA, is gravely concerned about the potential impact of the Immigration Act on landlords. Uphill believes that due to the lack of resources at their disposal, landlords could face “dangerous and unintended consequences” when having to maintain checks on tenants.
Uphill suggests that a number of tenants could disappear from their property. Additionally, landlords could be barred from entering their own house, which Uphill believes could lead to serious physical dangers.
“Landlords simply cannot walk in the property and require the tenant to speak to them,” Uphill said. “If a landlord just turns up unannounced that can be harassment and a criminal offence.”
She continued by suggesting that tenants could act aggressively when confronted, as they may be scared of going back to conflict areas. She said: “In the worse scenario, the tenant feeling themselves possibly under threat, because they might be sent out of the country and perhaps back to a war zone they are very frightened off, could potentially become aggressive with the landlord.
“You only need one incident where the landlord and tenant get in some sort of physical situation for that publicity to put all landlords off even considering taking on anyone on a temporary visa.
“Then you have all those people as vulnerable tenants forced into the underclass of rogue operators who will not care who take and certainly will not inform the immigration authorities.”
Further criticism of the changes has come from Universities UK, who already assess foreign students and claim that the duplication of this work from landlords is unnecessary.
However, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has welcomed the proposals outlined in the bill. Shadow Policing Minister David Hanson agrees that there is a “shared objective” within the Commons to clampdown on illegal migrants and that landlords should be expected to take some responsibility. He did however, go on to say that the bill should be changed to become “more palatable.”
Immigration minister Mark Harper believes that a more hardened approach is necessary to root out illegal immigrants. He said: “There is no doubt that immigrants have helped make Britain a richer and stronger society, but we must take firm action to address illegal immigration.
“We will be requiring all landlords to ensure that prospective tenants are here legally. This is in line with existing best practice across the rental sector.”
Harper went on to say: “We do not want to disadvantage legitimate landlords and tenants,” and therefore have “devised a system which will be effective and light-touch.” This, he states, will make it “tougher for illegal immigrants to rent property, but giving us the powers to take robust actions against rogue landlords.”