Landlords Legally Responsible for Checking the Immigration Status of their Tenants

LandlordZONE recently asked us to write an article on the new proposals to make landlords responsible for checking their tenant’s right to be in the UK:

The Queens Speech on the 8th May 2013 announced plans, as part of an Immigration Bill, to make landlords legally responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants.

The proposed regulation for landlords would be similar to those already in place for employers, who are required to check their employee’s eligibility to work in the UK.

The announcement earlier this month sparked anger from landlords and letting agents alike. Groups expressed concerns about becoming responsible for controlling our boarders and were angered at the suggestion that it would become their responsibility. Concerns were raised as to how a landlord would be able to tell genuine from false documents, whether it would be the landlord or agent’s responsibility and how in-depth the checks would need to be to avoid facing the proposed penalties which could run in to thousands of pounds.

A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The government is taking action to stop rogue landlords who cash in from housing illegal immigrants. These measures will send out a strong signal and help reduce unsustainable immigration.”

Since it’s announcement earlier this month, the plans have been defined and some what watered down, although are not a complete U-turn. It has now emerged that the changes will target problem areas, rather than being a nationwide initiative, and will therefore effect far fewer than the estimated two million buy-to let landlords in the UK.

In what was reported to be a heated Cabinet debate, the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, is said to have told the Prime Minister David Cameron that most properties were rented out by individual or small portfolio landlords and that these new measures would be an “unreasonable burden”.

Eric Pickles and those in the Communities department are said to be working to “not over-regulate the whole market” and to “target the regulations at high risk areas”. This means that only areas with a high immigrant population, such as Ealing and Hounslow, will be subject to the new regulations.

It seems that the Bill was sketched out and then announced in the Queens Speech, before the details of how it would be implemented had been fully worked through. It is now clear that it would be unworkable as a blanket policy for all landlords nationwide, not only creating a massive burden on landlords (who could potentially then pass costs on to tenants), but also deterring new entrants to the buy-to-let market.

Eric Pickles is now working on the best way to implement the policy without imposing onerous red tape on all landlords. Legislative details are to be published in due course and of course.

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