Anger over plans to make landlords vet immigrant tenants

Private landlords will have to vet their tenants under new immigration laws announced in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

They will be legally responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants, with fines running into thousands of pounds for those breaking the law.

The move seems likely to herald a burgeoning industry cashing in on the chance to offer  landlords immigration checks – but the Government has come in for robust criticism.

Stephen Thornton, director of external affairs at the RICS, said: “The Government has stubbornly refused to look at introducing better laws to protect both landlords and tenants – it is unacceptable that it expects the property industry to deliver its immigration policy.”

The Residential Landlords Association said that whilst immigration rules need to be enforced effectively, the reality is that tenants living in the UK legally will see rents rise as letting agents ramp up fees to cover the costs of further checks on tenants and to cover the greater risks new laws will bring.

Richard Jones, the RLA’s policy director, said: “Whilst the RLA fully supports measures to ensure everyone in the UK is legally allowed to be here, the announcement smacks of political posturing rather than a seriously thought through policy.

“The proposal will not work in practice. Employers have been required to make similar checks but it has made no real difference to the numbers of illegal immigrants in the country.

“For a government committed to reducing the burden of regulation, it is ironic that they are now seeking to impose a significant regulatory burden on landlords, making them scapegoats for the UK Border Agency’s failings.”

Ajay Jagota, of KIS Lettings in the North-East, said: “How will you stop landlords being left in the ridiculous position of inadvertently discriminating on the grounds of race to be on the safe side?

“This already sounds like another poorly thought-out policy from a government which often looks like they’re making it up as they go along. Longer term I can see this proposal having all the impact of an inflatable hammer.

“As is so often the case with issues like this, the vast majority of responsible, sensible landlords will already be ensuring their tenants have a legal right to live in the UK, as deported tenants tend not to pay their rent. The dodgy landlords who don’t, still won’t.

“Of course immigration is a hugely important issue, as are landlords who put tenants in substandard properties and who line their pockets from people’s misery. This proposal does nothing to tackle any of those issues.”

Stephen Nation, head of lettings at Sequence, said  “If it’s to be the responsibility of all landlords to check passports and visas of foreign tenants, that will lead to questions about how equipped an amateur landlord is at carrying out and verifying these checks.
 
“These proposals are just passing off the onus of implementation of the Immigration Act on to landlords.”

David Brown, of LSL Property Services, warned that more rules forced upon landlords by the Government would act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise invest in the industry.
 
Only Caroline Kenny, executive of UKALA (United Kingdom Association of Letting Agents) said she was in favour.

She said: “This is a logical step and one that will be positively received by the industry, demonstrating better regulation within the private rented sector.
 
“For the majority of letting agents, highlighting any immigration irregularities is already usual practice by undertaking thorough identity checks, including taking copies of prospective tenants’ passports, as well as work permits and resident visas where appropriate, which are then presented to their landlord clients for approval.”
Article courtesy of Landlord Today
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