The part-time border police – Landlords potential new role
29 October 2014 by Ashlee Campbell
A controversial new policy which was first mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in 2013 seems to have gathered some pace recently as it was announced a pilot scheme will be starting in December. The plan is make Landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants, with fines amounting to thousands of pounds for offenders.
Since its announcement and ensuing consultations, there is some very important seeds of doubt lingering over the proposal. For instance many commentators have suggested that the responsibility of the Landlord to check the legal documents, which could potentially require them to recognise 100’s of immigration documents, could lead to a preference for ‘British only’ tenants. John Perry wrote for The Guardian;
“Checking whether someone has the right to live in Britain is simple if they have a UK passport but can be mind-bogglingly difficult if their proof is any of a couple of dozen other kinds of document”
The difficulties resulting from the Bill could act to discriminate against legitimate migrants as Landlords could become less willing to take on foreign nationals. Equally, the wide ranging housing rights available to those under immigration control is one of the most complex areas of housing law which requires extensive training to be understood. It seems that the bill is being blind to this reality, hoping that these skills will spontaneously be acquired by landlords. In truth, the fear of hefty fines means the opposite is closer to the truth, with the potential for many legal migrants being turned away in light of confusion and alarm. A piece by Ben Reeve-Lewis supports this damning conclusion as the general response he has had from landlords is that “they will simply not let to anyone with a foreign accent”.
It is hoped however that the policy could also protect the very vulnerable from exploitative landlords. Stories of rouge proprietors providing sub-standard and illegal housing to low paid immigrants are rife in certain pockets of Britain.
Objections from landlords and the Lib-Dems has led to a protracted roll out of the policy, an initial pilot will be rolled out in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. This pilot, to gauge the impact of such a policy, will begin in early December with national roll-out due in 2015.
If you are a landlord and are worried about the statutory checks you should be doing on documents held by migrants, before offering them a tenancy, we at Fisher Jones Greenwood are able to talk you through them in a training session or can advise you on a case by case basis. This will ensure you are effectively protected.
If you are a prospective tenant we can also discuss with you which documents to present to a landlord. For more information or to make an appointment and get advice, contact the immigration team on 01206 835270.