Tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech outlining legislation for the next 12 months will include a pledge to roll out across England and Wales immigration checks on tenants that will have to be conducted by letting agents and landlords.
Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed details of the Immigration Bill which will begin its passage through parliament within the next few weeks.
In a speech announcing the measure he says: “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” says Cameron.
There has been a mixed response from the industry about the checks.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents says it is pleased that their will be more regulation of the private rented sector but it suggests Cameron’s pledges on checks and a landlord register are “not the full solution to the problem of rogue agents plaguing the market.”
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer at the National Landlords Association, says that while it welcomes any measure tackling the problem of criminals acting as private landlords to exploit illegal migrants, “it is essential that councils are given the necessary funding to ensure that they can enforce these powers effectively.”
He says: “One of the fundamental reasons that a minority of criminal landlords are able to get away with providing poor living conditions is that councils do not have the resources to make use of their already significant powers. We would like to see the Treasury allow councils to keep the proceeds of the fines from prosecutions so that councils have both the powers and finances for enforcement, without going cap in hand to the Treasury.”
Lambert also says that his association is “a little concerned” regarding the immigration checks, formally called Right to Rent.
“Landlords are happy to help to check that tenants are who they claim to be. However this should not be a way for the government to pass the buck on to landlords when tacking illegal immigration” he says.
“We hope, before the scheme is rolled out nationally, that the government takes the time to review how the first phase in the West Midlands has worked and draws on the lessons from that, rather than ploughing ahead regardless” he says.
Meanwhile the Residential Landlords Association is writing to the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire MP, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the proposals which, it says, “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.
It also claims the 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.