Agents and landlords who fail to identify and evict tenants who are illegal immigrants face up to five years in jail according to government announcements revealed overnight.
Under the proposed scheme for landlords in England, the Home Office would issue a notice when an asylum application fails; that notice confirms 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. Repeatedly failing to do either would be a new offence carrying maximum penalties of five years' imprisonment or a fine.
A blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents will allow councils to keep track of those who have been convicted of housing offences and ban them from renting out properties if they are repeat offenders.
Measures will also be introduced to crack down on landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants by renting out unfit flats and houses.
The measures will be included in the upcoming Immigration Bill, with the aim of making it more difficult for migrants to live in the UK after their visas have expired or applications for asylum have been rejected.
The announcements - which at this stage still lack some details - come as the government remains under pressure to take additional measures against migrants attempting to reach the UK through the Channel Tunnel.
A pilot Right To Rent project has been operating in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.
Since December, landlords and agents in these areas have been required to check the immigration status of all new adult tenants, sub-tenants and lodgers entering into new tenancies to assess whether they have right to rent in the UK.
Section 20 to 37 of the Immigration Act 2014 contains provisions to make it compulsory for landlords to check the immigration status of all new adult tenants.
A failure to conduct the checks and to provide accommodation to those without leave to remain could lead to a penalty of £1,000 per tenant and £80 per lodger, rising to £3,000 and £500 for repeated offences by landlords or their agents.
Today’s announcements suggest much tougher penalties are on the way when Right To Rent rolls out across England and Wales.