Landlord News

Why the Immigration Bill needs to be amended

Em Morley - February 25, 2014

The controversial Immigration Law continues to be debated between MP’s and landlords alike. With landlords gearing up to potentially having to conduct more stringent checks on prospective tenants, opposition is growing.

With the Immigration Bill imminently reaching the House of Lords, there are a number of reasons why the coalition could be forced to reconsider their plans:

The bill is too confusing for landlords and letting agents

It is simple to check whether or not someone has the right to live within the United Kingdom if they have a British passport. However, many landlords could be forced to chase and scrutinize dozens of alternative documents in order to ascertain a person’s eligibility to rent in the UK. This could prove confusing and costly if landlords make a genuine mistake, with fines of up to £3,000 for those who let properties to illegible tenants.

There will be fewer lodgers

Under the proposed Immigration Bill, potential lodgers in a rented property will also have to face eligibility checks. It is argued that this will have a detrimental effect on those tenants struggling with their mortgage payments. This will also discourage tenants paying bedroom tax.

Why the Immigration Bill needs to be amended

Why the Immigration Bill needs to be amended

 

Discrimination

Forcing landlords to conduct such checks could lead them to discriminate against ethnic minorities and foreign nationals. The Scottish Association of Landlords has already stated that legitimate tenants could be discriminated against, particularly those whose residency status is unclear.

The most likely people to be affected are those who have left their previous residence quickly and do not have sufficient documentation. There are also fears that many genuine immigrants will be discriminated against by rogue landlords.

Councils will be overworked

It is feared that immigrants discriminated against or being provided with sub-standard housing will turn to their local authorities. A large number of local authorities across the UK are already pressurised to deal with issues such as demand for temporary accommodation and homelessness.

Rents and Housing Benefit will increase

One major concern attributed to the proposed bill is that agents, if allowed to perform the checks, will charge for the process. The same goes for landlords who conduct the checks themselves, leaving tenants further out of pocket. Landlords will seek payment for their extra workload, in addition to any professional support.

It could be highly embarrassing for the Government

The home-secretary recently described the immigration branch as a, “troubled organisation”, that has struggled to cope with its workload. It is estimated that under the bill, landlords will submit up to around 10,000 daily status checks, further increasing the pressure on the branch. A spokesperson for the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association said, “this project sets the Home Office up to fail. Again.”[1]

It is proposed that the landlord immigration checks should either be taken out of the bill, or piloted and assessed in small numbers before they are introduced on a broader scale. A code of practice has also been mooted by the Home Office. Whatever conclusion is drawn, it is clear that there are a number of issues to consider and debates to be had before plans for the Immigration Bill are finalised.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2014/feb/11/immigration-bill-landlord-checks-mark-harper