Landlords pose ‘serious questions’ over UK government immigration plans

Alan Ward RLA
Alan Ward

Landlords have expressed serious concerns over UK government proposals to make private landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants.

In his speech on the government’s plans, prime minister David Cameron called for the national roll out of proposals to make landlords legally responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants.

He also called for a new licensing scheme to tackle landlords who “cram” their houses full of illegal immigrants and powers to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants in private rented housing.

Mr Cameron said: “There are other ways we can identify those who shouldn’t be here, for example through housing. For the first time we’ve had landlords checking whether their tenants are here legally. The Liberal Democrats only wanted us to run a pilot on that one. But now we’ve got a majority, we will roll it out nationwide, and we’ll change the rules so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly.

“We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime. And, a bit like ending jobs when visas expire, we’ll consult on cancelling tenancies automatically at the same point. It’s not just through housing and jobs; we can track down illegal migrants through the banking system too.”

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is writing to the immigration minister, James Brokenshire MP, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the proposals, which raise many questions.

The RLA questions why the prime minister is confirming the national roll out of the plans before assessing the impact of the pilot in the West Midlands.

In September 2014, the Home Office announced that the West Midlands would be the first area of the country to pilot landlords being legally responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants and would only be phased in throughout the country only “following an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands”.

The RLA added the prime minister’s proposal to make it easier to evict illegal immigrants causes potential confusion over the recent budget announcement to permit sub-letting and also changes brought in under the Deregulation Act, which make it easier for tenants to resist eviction. The plans also fail to answer whether this would override laws enabling landlords to regain possession of their properties contained within the 1988 Housing Act.

Proposals to introduce a new licensing scheme to address the problem of overcrowded homes also seem at odds with comments by the housing minister in March, as he suggested such regulations amounted to a “tenants tax”.

Alan Ward, chairman of the RLA, said: “No form of universal licensing of rented property is proven to capture the most unscrupulous landlords.

“As so often, the devil will be in the detail.”

On David Cameron’s pledge to licence landlords, David Cox, managing director, Association of Residential Letting Agents, said: “We are pleased to see the government listened to our Housing Manifesto calls for greater regulation of the private rented sector (PRS). However, whilst this is a step in the right direction, it’s not the full solution to the problem of rogue agents plaguing the market. We urge the government to take this opportunity and impose more appropriate, overarching regulation on the whole lettings industry. We look forward to hearing the full details of the plans in the Queen’s Speech next week.”

Share icon
Share this article: