Landlords could face prison for failing to check the immigration status of tenants. Repeatedly failing to evict illegal immigrants would be a new offence carrying maximum penalties of five years imprisonment or a fine for convicted landlords.
There are also plans by the Government to create to create a blacklist of criminal landlords and letting agents, with a ban on letting for those repeatedly convicted of housing offences.
Responding to the announcement, RLA Chairman, Alan Ward said
“The RLA is to meet the Home Office tomorrow to discuss immigration checks. Why has this extra responsibility and risk been put on landlords and agents? Why not employers?
“The ability to evict illegals may answer the problem of abandonment if an illegal immigrant is removed by the authorities, but is a potential minefield if we get it wrong. Just because a landlord has the right to evict, it doesn’t explain how to go about it. ”
“There must be better support to ensure landlords are able to validate tenants’ right to rent and what to do when a tenant loses that right. We have real concerns as the Home Office have failed to allocate any meaningful budget to informing landlord, agents and tenants about the right to rent process.”
Policy Director, David Smith added,
“There is already substantial confusion over the issue of checking documents of tenants to validate their status. There is the risk that people with unusual documents will be evicted by landlords who do not want to take the risk or who cannot understand their documents. Those landlords will then find themselves having acted in good faith at the time but possibly then facing an unlawful eviction claim if they are wrong.
“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. The government has not presented any evidence that landlords are directly involved in housing people they know to be illegal immigrants. There will now be concerns that landlords and agents will be prosecuted as much for not being able to operate the highly complex system as for wilfully ignoring it.
Greg Clark, the communities secretary, will also announce that the legislation will create a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents to allow councils to know where to concentrate their enforcement action. “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords,” said Clark.
The announcement by Clark, who will also announce new measures to prevent rogue landlords renting out sub-standard properties, comes as May and foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, prepare to take it turns chairing meetings of the government’s emergency Cobra committee in response to the Calais crisis.
Right to rent
The proposals - to be included in the upcoming Immigration Bill - come as the British and French governments struggle to deal with a migrant crisis in Calais, where large numbers of people are making nightly bids to cross the Channel to reach the UK.
Under the proposals for landlords in England, the Home Office would issue a notice when an asylum application fails that confirms the tenant no longer has the right to rent property.