The Residential Landlords’ Association has submitted its official response to the Government’s consultation on proposals to introduce mandatory tenant immigration checks – opposing the plans as “bureaucratic and overly cumbersome”.
The proposals, if implemented, would mean every landlord would have to undertake identification checks on behalf of the Home Office for every single prospective tenant – at cost to themselves, without support, and under the threat of prosecution if they undertake the work incorrectly.
In its detailed response document, the RLA highlights a number of serious misgivings about the plans:
1. The proposals put the onus on untrained civilians not officially trained staff
The RLA has serious misgivings that the success, or failure, of the proposals depends on untrained British civilians, rather than officially trained UK border agency staff. This is wholly unacceptable.
2. A ‘light touch’ approach is simply an interpretation of the proposals
On initial consideration, the Government’s proposals appear feasible and practical. However, the wording of consultation is far too vague to have any credence.
The RLA is deeply concerned that what appears to be a ‘light touch’ proposal could soon become something more substantial at the behest of political demands for high profile ‘crackdowns’, or the whims of individual border agency officials.
At two consultation meetings with the RLA, UK Border Agency officials were at pains to stress the ‘light touch’ approach envisaged, but such an approach is simply an interpretation of the proposed regulations, and the reality could be a far more draconian system which extends far beyond the remit originally foreseen.
3. The proposals will not be effective
The proposals will not be effective in practice. The proposals have too many holes and anomalies to be of any use for identifying illegal immigrants. For instance, the consultation document fails to answer concerns about sub-letting and landlords’ obligations in regards to sub-tenants.
Furthermore, as the RLA’s consultation survey shows, the scope of checks already being undertaken by landlords means that the intended target for the checks will already be living within the ‘hidden economy’ rather than in bona fide private rented accommodation.
4. The proposals are bureaucratic and overly cumbersome
The ‘light touch’ philosophy of the proposals loses credence when the 404 potential European identity documents that a landlord may need to know are considered. The wildly confusing array of potential documentation that landlords could face will render the process bureaucratic and overly cumbersome.
5. The proposals will lead to increased discrimination
There is no doubt that should the proposals be implemented then they will lead to unintended, but increased, discrimination against migrants, with some landlords refusing to house migrants for fear of falling foul of the new rules.
6. The proposals will lead to further friction in the landlord/agent relationship
The Government has recently proposed the establishment of a redress scheme for letting and management agents, which the RLA welcomes. However, the scheme does not go far enough to address many concerns about the lack of regulation governing the letting and management agent sector.
Landlords, as much as tenants, can fall foul of cowboy agents, and these proposals provide another opportunity for unscrupulous agents to fleece landlords via the implementation of charges for immigration checks and the potential for such checks not to be actually undertaken. The proposals do not make clear where responsibility lies for such checks, where landlords use agents, when border agency staff arrive on the doorstep.
7. The proposals place an additional burden of cost on landlords
Landlords will be expected to undertake immigration checks at cost to themselves, as well as pick up the bill for any potential future legal action that may be taken against them if they fail to undertake their untrained duties correctly.
8. The proposals may also lead to “increased activity in the hidden economy”
The Home Office consultation document admits that one of the effects of the proposals, “…may also be increased activity in the hidden economy.”