Last week, details of new immigration proposals outlined in the Queen’s Speech divided many. With talk that landlords will be responsible for immigration checks, questions have been raised within the housing sector on how this will be executed. Siân Williams reports on the RLA’s media response…
Whilst the Residential Landlords’ Association awaits a consultation from the Government on the matter, the association believes the proposals will be a ‘nightmare’ to enact for many landlords within the private rental sector.
On BBC World at One with Martha Kearney, RLA vice chairman, Chris Town, was joined by Labour MP Chris Bryant and Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, as he voiced landlords’ opinions on whether the new immigration policy plan would place a heavy burden on the private rental sector.
With Labour MP, Chris Bryant, asking, “What is one more check?”, Chris responded by placing heavy emphasis on the fact that checks are “not a simple procedure…[it’s a] complex area and landlords can fall into the pit [of non-compliance] very easily.”
Drawing parallels with employment procedures on immigration, he stated that employers who fail to report illegal immigrants can be fined up to £10,000. Thus if landlords were to face the same fines and same procedures as employers, it may deter many good landlords from entering the private rental sector.
Chris also warned that the plans would “encourage the irresponsible [rogue landlords]”, who, as a result, would “reap the rewards” of the vacuum caused by a lack of good landlords.
Similarly, during an interview with Good Evening Wales with Gareth Lewis and Nelli Bird, Chris stated that there were many “flaws” in the proposals, stating that they would be “impossible to validate people”; and would have a negative effect on the private rented sector by “encouraging the criminal element in the industry to house people who can’t find housing anywhere else”.
Furthermore, in light of a recent increase in government funding to tackle the issue of ‘beds in sheds’, recent immigration proposals may in the long run counteract efforts to eliminate criminal landlords who target vulnerable, and in many cases, illegal tenants.
On BBC Radio London, a number of questions were also raised on immigration by drivetime presenter, Eddie Nestor. With many landlords concerned that the immigration proposals would bring more red tape and bureaucracy to the private rental sector, Eddie Nestor asked immigration Minister, Mark Harper, how landlords would be able to identity legitimate papers.
Richard Jones, RLA policy director, countered the minister’s response, stating: “I think it’s going to be extremely difficult…you are expecting landlords who are usually a small way of business – the average landlord only has one or two properties – engage in a very difficult exercise, ministers talked a lot about employers [in regards to checking migrant status] but what he didn’t mention was that employers have an 89-page detailed guide to follow… it’s going to be a nightmare…”
During the conversation, Mark confirmed plans for a consultation, confirming to Eddie that even if checks are made by agents, if the tenant is found to be an illegal immigrant, the landlord will still be held responsible. Leading Eddie to ask, “Will this lead to checks on checks?”
Richard also raised the question on whether landlords would have to check every resident or just every tenant. A group of relatives may prove problematic when different members of the family may potentially have different immigration statuses.
Local landlords also vented their opinions in response to the proposals, on both BBC London and BBC Birmingham.
Throughout all his interviews on a hectic day, Chris Town underlined a clear message from the RLA: “We have a Border Agency that costs a huge amount of money to protect our borders and they should be carrying out these checks, not landlords.”
Siân Williams is the RLA’s marketing assistant.
Listen to the full views and opinions of the RLA’s Chris Town and Richard Jones, in their various debates and interviews with the BBC:
- BBC Five Live with Shelagh Fogarty (from 38:00m)
- BBC World at One on Radio 4 with Martha Kearney (from 23:32m)
- Drivetime with Eddie Nestor on BBC Radio London
- Danny Kelly’s BBC West Midlands show (from 40:00m)
- Good Evening Wales with Gareth Lewis and Nelli Bird (from 43:40m)