The head of lettings at Carter Jonas has warned the government not to rush ahead with a national rollout of immigration checks ahead of today’s Queen’s Speech in which legislation for the next twelve months will be announced.
Last week David Cameron revealed that the Conservatives will introduce a national rollout of immigration checks now that there is a majority government.
The pilot scheme of immigration checks by landlords and agents was introduced in the West Midlands last December. In a speech last week, Cameron blamed the coalition government for the fact that checks had yet to become compulsory nationwide.
A reminder issued to landlords and agents in the West Midlands to fill out an official survey on immigration checks suggests there will be no report on any findings until later this year.
“It’s difficult to see how any sensible wider roll-out of the Right to Rent regime, although it has long been forecast to come this year, can be made before the full results of the survey have been analysed and made public for full discussion,” says Lisa Simon, Carter Jonas’ national head of lettings.
“It’s important that landlords and lettings agents respond to the final survey but even more important that the Government publishes the results to facilitate full discussion both within the lettings industry and also between the industry and the Government,” she adds.
Lisa Simon says that it is important that the additional workload on agents and landlords is analysed, as well as whether or not Home Office support for those in the West Midlands has been ‘sufficiently robust’.
“It needs to be clear just what effect there has been on workload, how effective the checks have been, and whether or not the Home Office support and helpline for the limited numbers implementing Right to Rent has been sufficiently robust and will be adjusted to ensure it can cope with increased demand after a fairly limited trial.”
“The industry – and the country – needs planned implementation of this rather than shock announcements that lack substance as to how change will be implemented. Everyone was hopeful that with a majority, the Conservatives would be more considered with policy announcements and that the era of fag packet policy was in the past,” she says.
“As the head of a national lettings agency, I am concerned to see how the immigration check system has worked and what it has cost, especially in the current climate where lettings agents are already under scrutiny for charging tenant fees for our services.”
Simon concludes by warning all letting agents and landlords that when the checks are introduced in their area they need to be vigilant to ensure nothing slips past them unchallenged that could cause legal problems.
*Graham Norwood is away on annual leave until June 10th. Conor Shilling will be undertaking editorial duties in his absence. Please send any press enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.