Measures announced today to crack down on illegal immigrants obtaining housing could lead to lawful tenants being denied a home say landlords.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is concerned that there is insufficient support for landlords to check documents which are unfamiliar to them. It can take up to 48 hours for a document to be verified whereas landlords make instant decisions for those with a UK or EU passport with an easily recognisable right to be in the UK.
The impact will be, especially in areas of high demand like London, where many landlords will not want to take the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the law and so may deny accommodation to those who are entitled to be in the UK.
The RLA will be meeting the Home Office tomorrow (Tuesday) to learn more of the impact of the pilot scheme running in the West Midlands, where landlords are required to check the immigration status of a tenant.
While strongly supporting action to deal with landlords who persistently house illegal immigrants and who now face possibly five years in prison, the RLA is calling for the identification and prosecution of persistent offenders to be adequately resourced so as to be a real deterrent.
Responding to the announcement, RLA Chairman, Alan Ward said:
“The RLA welcomes proposals to simplify repossession when an illegal immigrants has been identified by the Home Office. What we need is clarification as to how long this process will take.
“We also support a crack-down on rogue landlords exploiting illegal immigration, but it is not fair to put all the burden on landlords. They are not immigration officers and cannot be expected to readily identify documents and visas with which they are totally unfamiliar and it will require adequate resourcing.
“Given the increased penalties announced today, landlords will err on the side of caution and may deny accommodation to those fully entitled to it.
“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.
“As always, it is the responsible landlords who will face the brunt of these stringent measures so we need assurances that they will get the support they need to make rapid assessments whilst also knowing that there will be sufficient resources deployed to identify the criminal landlords who are exploiting illegal immigrants.”