The government’s immigration plans could mean lawful tenants are denied homes

Landlords have expressed concern that new measures could lead to discrimination against foreign-born tenants

 

Yesterday the government announced measures to crack down on illegal immigration by requiring landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. In some cases this would allow landlords to evict illegal immigrants without going to court.

But the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has expressed concern that this will lead to people who are in the country legally being denied homes. Most landlords will be unfamiliar with documents relating to immigration, meaning they may choose to err on the side of caution and reject anyone who does not have an easily recognisable right to be in the UK.

The RLA says that, while it strongly supports action to deal with landlords who persistently house illegal immigrants, landlords need to be given proper support to ensure that they are comfortable making the necessary judgements. There needs to be adequate resources to ensure that landlords are equipped to deal with this new responsibility.

As the RLA points out, it can take up to 48 hours for a document to be verified, whereas landlords will make instant decisions about prospective tenants with no immigration issues. This could make it harder for foreign-born tenants to find homes, even if their stay here is perfectly legal, and mean that they are discriminated against by landlords understandably anxious to stay on the right side of the law.

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.”

A pilot scheme where landlords have to check the immigration status of their tenants is already running in the West Midlands. The government describes the checks they need to make as simple; in preparation for the scheme’s expansion, the RLA is meeting the Home Office today to discuss the impact of the pilot.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

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