Today marks the official opening of the new Parliament, with the Queen’s Speech outlining the legislations for the next twelve months.
Just last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Tories will bring about a nationwide rollout of changes in the Immigration Act 2014, now that they have a majority government. A pilot scheme of immigration status and right to rent checks was introduced in the West Midlands at the back end of last year.
During his address, Mr Cameron blamed the coalition government for the fact that the nationwide rollout had not been introduced sooner. However, the reminder to landlords within the West Midlands to fill out official questionnaires on the success of immigration checks suggests that a full report of the findings and any subsequent rollout will not be occurring until late this year.
With the national rollout of the scheme in the offing, the head of lettings at Carter Jonas, Lisa Simon, has appealed to the Government not to rush ahead with their plans. She believes that, ‘it’s difficult to see how any sensible wider roll-out of the Right to Rent regime, although it has long been forecast to come this year, can be made before the full-results of the survey have been analysed and made public for full discussion.’
Continuing, Simon said that, ‘it’s important that landlords and letting agents respond to the final survey but even more important that the Government publishes the results to facilitate full discussion, both within the lettings industry and also between the industry and the Government.’
Simon feels that alongside the increased workload for landlords and agents, Home Office support for those in the West Midlands should also be thoroughly assessed. She claims that, ‘it needs to be clear just what effect there has been on workload, how effective the checks have been and whether or not the Home Office support and helpline for the limited numbers implementing Right to Rent has been sufficiently robust and will be adjusted to ensure it can cope with increased demand after a fairly limited trial.’
‘The industry – and the country – needs planned implementation of this rather than shock announcements that lack substance as to how change will be implemented. Everyone was hopeful that with a majority, the Conservatives would be more considered with policy announcements and that the era of fag packet policy was in the past,’ she added.
As head of a national lettings agency, Simon stated that she was, ‘concerned to see how the immigration check system has worked and what it has cost, especially in the current climate where lettings agents are already under scrutiny for charging tenant fees for our services.’
Concluding, Simon warned all letting agents and landlords to be vigilant when the checks are eventually introduced in their area, to ensure there are no legal issues further down line.