What’s to stop landlords passing the cost of immigration checks on to already squeezed tenants?

For the sake of appeasing a handful of Tory backbenchers and shoring up the UKIP vote, the government may have just heaped another burden on already hard-pressed tenants.

It will be announced in the Queen’s speech later today that private landlords are to be made legally responsible for ensuring tenants have a legal right to live in the UK before arranging a letting.

Much like the government’s announcement over the weekend on pensions for foreign spouses, this latest policy proposal looks very much like red meat thrown out there by the government to fend of the threat from UKIP.

According to the Telegraph, the level of fines for those landlords which fail to properly check the immigration status of their tenants may run into ‘thousands of pounds’.

What, though, is to stop letting agencies and landlords passing this cost (presumably it costs something to check a person’s immigration status) on to already squeezed tenants?

According to a report which came out in January, rents in England are increasing by an average of £300 a year. As well as making increasingly swaths of the country uninhabitable for all but the most affluent, the cost of rent is also making it harder for young would-be homeowners to save the money to buy their first property.

As far as I can make out, there is nothing to stop landlords and lettings agencies tacking yet another ‘administration fee’ on to the initial cost of securing a tenancy when the government’s latest ‘get tough with the foreigners’ policy comes in.

Checking the immigration status of a tenant will undoubtedly cost landlords and agencies money, but it will almost certainly cost tenants more – much like the ‘administration fee’ levied by lettings agencies (£200 – £400 on average) at present tends to be higher than the cost to the agent of filling out and sending away a couple of forms.

For the sake of appeasing a handful of Tory backbenchers and shoring up the UKIP vote, the government may well have just heaped another burden on already hard-pressed renters.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

8 Responses to “What’s to stop landlords passing the cost of immigration checks on to already squeezed tenants?”

  1. voteukiporwearefinished

    To answer your question, nothing. Once again the poorest pay the highest price for out of control immigration.

  2. Anthony Masters

    Making landlords quasi-agents for the neo-Border Agency is hardly a good idea. Whilst the policy is being “aimed” at immigrants living in HMOs, it is actually a uniform measure across all rents.
    Two things are likely to happen: rents will increase to cover the costs of these immigrations status checks, and some landlords will prefer tenants who’s status can be easily verified, such as anyone with an EU passport. Anyone lacking a cheap verification will face higher rents or greater difficulty in signing tenancy agreements.

  3. John

    This measure is awful in every way. Aside from the additional costs to resident tenants, anyone who is living illegally will just be pushed further into the arms of even less legitimate landlords. While the right might claim this is their own fault for living illegally in the first place these people are not simply going to disappear (much as they might like to). It will further diminish their living standards and push them towards crime and create further social problems.

    Illegal immigration is no ideal, but kicking people out of the system completely into the arms of people who work outside any system won’t help anyone.

  4. gary bartlett

    LRS £4.99 – I’m not worried about that at all!

    The real villains are the letting agents who are robbing people blind with extortionate and unjustified fees – long may they suffer the wrath of the forthcoming legislation coming their way
    That is why, in 20 years I can count the number of times I’ve used them on one hand….

  5. Scot-lord

    As a landlord I think neither tenants nor landlords will want this. It’s ridiculous to put this cost on landlords as a result of the failure of govt to prevent illegal immigration. What’s next, landlords to man speeding traps or intervene in bar brawls ? Others have said, rightly, that tenants are pooly placed to pay for it too. Here in Scotland I haven’t been able to raise rent to cover the increased cost to me since letting agents can’t now charge for credit checks so I wont be able to recoup the immigration check either. Yet when a tenant leaves with rent due I have to lump it. If I don’t check immigations status I’m going to be landed with a large fine. Not all landlords are making money hand over fist, especially not in this area. Seriously considering selling up, the unintended consequences will be fewer landlords, fewer rental properties, higher rent. All to appease a bunch xenophobic a$%eho£es !

  6. Richard Gadsden

    Why aren’t the same rules going to be applied to anyone who sells a house to an illegal immigrant?

  7. Robert Kaye

    Two probable reasons: one, you already have to show your solicitor proof of identity when purchasing a house which would presumably put off illegal immigrants; two, there’s no legal reason why someone who isn’t allowed to live here shouldn’t own a property here – they might for instance let it. So if the policy is to flush out people living illegally, checks on owning a property wouldn’t do it.

  8. HenHarrio

    The politicians pushing this idea are ignoring or ignorant of the
    realities of being a private landlord with one or two properties.

    and employment might both be important elements of an illegal
    immigrant’s life in the UK which the government wants to target but
    employers and landlords aren’t equivalent and landlords – particularly
    unincorporated ones – shouldn’t be given this burden.

    Zahawi (Con) and others were saying how this was ‘just one more check’
    for landlords on the radio. They (wrongly) assert that private landlords
    (including all types ranging from professional and large organisations
    to the doing-their-best-with-granny’s-old-flat people) routinely carry
    out credit checks, reference checks and identity checks where they take
    copies of the identity documents (presumably using the photocopier they
    don’t have in the offices that don’t exist) on new tenants.

    all this experience, navigating immigration statuses should be no
    issue. They’ll self teach themselves how it all works – perhaps with
    help from the UKBA’s 89 page guideline for businesses.

Leave a Reply