Landlords To Be Empowered Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Landlords Must Evict Failed Asylum Seekers Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Must Evict Failed Asylum Seekers Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Must Evict Failed Asylum Seekers Under Immigration Bill Proposals

The Government have announced that Landlords could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years for breaching the ‘Right to Rent’ checks to be included in the forthcoming Immigration Bill.

The controversial immigration bill proposals require private rental sector and social sector landlords to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, in advance of agreeing a tenancy, with the proviso that repeatedly failing to do so would be a new offence, carrying maximum penalties of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.

Immigrants storm a ferry at Calais The announcement over the weekend came as the British and French governments struggle to  deal with the escalating migrant crisis in Calais, where large numbers of immigrants are making  increasingly audacious attempts to breach security in order to cross the Channel to reach the  UK.

Under the proposals, the Home Office would issue a notice when an asylum application fails stating that the tenant no longer has the right to rent property. This will trigger a power for landlords to end the tenancy, without a court order in some circumstances. Going against the current statute for tenant eviction, raising concerns as to how landlords would deal with a situation where an illegal immigrant had been removed from a property by the Home Office but had then returned.The new legislation includes measures that will:

  • Allow landlords to evict illegal immigrants without a court order
  • Impose a fine or imprisonment of up to five years on landlords if they fail to check the immigration status of tenants
  • Introduce a new fit and proper test for landlords to ensure the properties are safe for tenants
  • Allow local authorities to ban repeat offending landlords from renting out properties

There is already substantial confusion over the issue of checking documents of tenants to verify their immigration status, with the risk that migrants with unusual documents could be evicted by landlords who do not want to take risks or who are unable to understand their documentation.

Those landlords could find themselves facing an unlawful eviction claim if they are wrong despite acting in good faith at the time.

The Immigration Bill will introduce a Home Office notice intended to “remove the protections currently afforded to illegal immigrants by the Protection for Eviction Act and the Housing Act 1988”.

The expectation is that this notice will be clear and unambiguous, empowering landlords to “take steps to evict a tenant, after a short notice period, without the need for a court process for repossession, unless eviction requires the use of force.”

Financial support for failed asylum seekers will also end under the plans.

Some 10,000 currently continue to receive a taxpayer-funded allowance of £36 a week, despite their applications having been rejected, because they are living in the UK with their families.

Measures will also be introduced to crack down on landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants by renting out unfit properties.

Greg Clark

Communities Secretary Greg Clarke

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said the government would crack down on “rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration” and Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said he wanted to “send out a very clear message to those who seek to exploit the system that Britain is not a soft touch on asylum”.

A blacklist of “rogue” landlords and letting agents will allow local authorities to keep track of those who have been convicted of housing offences and ban them from renting out properties if they are repeat offenders.

Mr Clark told The Guardian newspaper that “The Government was targeting people who made money by exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system. We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties.

Richard Lambert

Richard Lambert – National Landlords Association

Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association, (NLA), Richard Lambert, told Radio 4′s Today programme that “The proposals were a welcome step forward, although I am slightly concerned that we are breaking the 40-year-old principle that it has to be a court that ends a tenancy… but we do need something that will work in practice. The possibility of a five-year prison penalty is quite surprising and has come almost out of the blue, but you do wonder how much it relates to the government wanting to be seen to be tough on migration given what’s going on in Calais.”

During the programme Mr Lambert raised concerns about migrants being evicted and the possibility of violent confrontations, stating: “We could see people doing very desperate things such as barricading themselves inside a property and I think that we need to think through the consequences of the kind of systems we are putting into place”.

However, given the existing confusion over Right to Rent checks brought to light by the trial consultation in operation in the West Midlands, which is still ongoing, it could be premature to add a new criminal penalty targeting landlords.

The government has not presented any evidence that landlords are directly involved in housing people they know to be illegal immigrants, raising more concerns that landlords and letting agents could be prosecuted for not being able to operate the highly complex system rather than for wilfully ignoring it.

This was written by Mike Clarke. Posted on at 11:30 am. Filed under Landlord News. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.