Written by RLA

Measures announced today to crack down on illegal immigrants obtaining housing could lead to lawful tenants being denied a home say landlords…

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.”

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The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.

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  • Can landlords get free professional checks on passports and immigration status as we wouldn’t necessarily spot a fake one. Also what happens if after you have done all your checks and are happy with the results and then the tenant sublets behind your back to an illegal immigrant what happens there?

  • A very good point made by Teresa, what would happen that after the landlord has carried out the checks to the best of his ability and the tenancy has started and then it was discovered that the tenant was an illegal immigrant, what could the landlord do…notify the authorities and possibly be taken to court…how would he evict the tenant, and how long would it take to resolve the eviction, especially if the tenant had a young family with them, would a long delay expose the landlord to more penalties? I’ve not read up on the procedures yet but there seems to be a lot of “what if’s”
    what would happen if the authorities mistakenly agreed that the tenant was a legal immigrant, would the landlord liable for any penalties? Remember we have people falsely claiming benefits on forged or stolen papers.

  • This article annoingly uses incorrect moral judgement by saying that landlords renting to illegal imigrants are ‘exploiting them’. This is nonsence and hipocrisy.

    These landlords would be doing something illegal under the new law but they would definitelly not be ‘exploiting’ their tenants. If anything, they would be helping them and at a risk to themselfs.

    • There was a presentation on this at our last NLA meeting (I’m a member of both). There’s a long list of documents – some in the “one alone is enough”, others of the “you need two from …” type.
      Amongst those are driving licence, payslip from a UK employer, and so on. After a chance to look through the list, if someone couldn’t meet the requirements then I’d not be confident enough in their identity to let them rent from me.

  • Would it be better if all prospective tenants, before looking to rent, were vetted by the Immigration Office and got a number which the Landlord can then cross verify with the Immigration Office?

  • For around 15 years I have trained local authority and housing association staff, mostly through the Chartered Institute of Housing, on how to check documentation such as passports,ID cards and Residence Permits for eligibility to access social housing. Since contacting the UK Border Agency I also train staff on how to check if the documents are fraudulent.

    It can be a very complex and difficult area of work. There is hardly an organisation where I have carried out such training where the staff were already confident and sure about their work in this area.

    Asking private landlords to check the same documentation is really a very poor idea and coupled with the threat of criminal charges is extremely onerous on them. I hope the RLA is able to convince the government of the absurdity of this idea.

    Failing that I would be pleased to work with the RLA to provide training and materials for landlords which would allow them to make reasonable decisions on the basis of what documentation is presented to them.

    Roger Barton

  • I already discriminate against EU citizens, as it’s just too much trouble.

    I couldn’t even list for you the countries that are in the EU, let alone spot a legitimate from them.

    E.g. Do you know off the top of your head if Estonia is in the EU? I don’t. What about Belarus? Don’t know that either.

    Could you even tell the difference between their passports, or some “identity card” the prospective tenants claim is from that country?

  • I am a payroll administrator and we do these checks on all none UK employees.
    We are not expected to know a fake from the real thing. We have to prove that we have taken reasonable care to ensure that the person is entitled to be in and work in the UK. Take a copy of the passport and if none European a copy of there permission to reside / work in the Uk along with a previous address if they have one in the UK. Dates are important with these documents so take note and ensure still active. A tenancy check is always a good idea for what it costs so it is really quite straight forward. Just make sure you check and take copies and your covered. They may only have temporary entitlement to work and live in the UK so take a note of the expiry date and chase up one month before it is due to expire. They should then give you a letter of application which you can check if you are still unsure by going on the border agency web site and following the instruction.

  • As for sub letting make sure it is written in the lease that you must be informed of anyone other than themselves staying at the property. The government cannot hold you responsible for something that you could not possibly know about and it is them that is legislating to entitle tenants to sub let if they so wish. I still believe that if it is a condition of the lease that they cannot sub let and signed as part of the contract as a sub section
    then this is legally binding and you can do no more to protect yourself, With this type of thing the words ‘reasonable care’ are vital in all this and as long as you have taken all steps possible to ensure you have done all you can then they cannot prosecute you.

  • I don’t think a comparison with the employment regs is apposite. An employer also has other matters that are related to the state requirements in addition to identity check, that in combination provide a framework of compliance.

    An employee must also have an NI number, the employer must record the person for tax purposes.

    Don’t forget the Home Office Minister who was employing a person who had overstayed in breach of regulations!

    Many landlords often do not comply with landlord & tenant law let alone immigration.

  • From what I am hearing, if you currently have a tenant in your property that is an illegal immigrant you could face up to 5 years in jail if you fail to evict them, even though the law on right to rent wasn’t in force at the time.

    Who is going to pay the legal costs for this, and what section do you use.
    A section 21 will work if they are outside their contract, but if its inside their contract still I don’t think section 8 includes their immigration status.

    Also, once they are in your property it will be much more difficult to do the checks anyway. If you ask for documentation and they know they are illegal they will keep kicking their heels and never produce it.
    How could you prove to a judge on that basis that they are illegal.

    It could see landlords refusing to let to anyone of an ethnic minority, or with a foreign accent. Wouldn’t that then lead you to be prosecuted for racial discrimination instead.

    I wouldn’t know how to recognise a forged passport.
    I agree with an earlier comment that the tenants should be getting everything checked by the home office, and have a checkable reference number to prove they have had the necessary checks.
    They could have a photograph taken, and stored on a website that you can access with the reference number to confirm they are who they say they are.
    Technically even UK citizens could require to go through this process to prevent forged passports being missed by landlords.

  • Another ill-conceived and half-baked lack of thinking from the Government. Proof of identity is hard to reliably validate. UK banks have long been required to validate i.d. and so have established access to vast in-house and external bureau databases, interpreted by trained and highly experienced staff. Despite these advantages, banks experience fraud. I have seen most convincing images of fraudulent passports from fake borrowers that manage to ‘pass’ extensive credit bureau and bank checks. As a landlord with one rental property, I have three questions: a) what resources will I be provided by Government to do a better job at immigration control than it proves capable of doing for itself? b Which ministers ought we write to to ask? c) What financial remuneration will we get to cover the cots of doing Government’s job on it’s behalf?

  • . . . and if the hugely disadvantaged immigrants must be denied access to housing, what next? Will supermarkets be held to account for selling them food? can train operating companies be fined for allowing illegal immigrants to move around the country? Can Ministers be put in jail for employing ‘illegals’ in their state-subsidised home – oh no, sorry, we already know the answer to that. Its only care home operators or farmers that seem to be fined for immigration employment breaches.

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