The publication of the Immigration Bill giving details of the government's expectations of letting agents and landlords to conduct checks on tenants has done nothing to stem criticism of the idea.
Lisa Simon, head of residential lettings at Carter Jonas - who has in recent days been outspoken in her criticism of government legislation for the private rental sector - says that factsheets just issued by the Home Office in support of the Immigration Bill shows "muddled thinking."
“The factsheet states ‘The Bill will enable landlords to evict illegal migrants more easily, and in some circumstances without a court order. Landlords will obtain a notice issued by the Home Office which confirms that the tenant is disqualified from renting in the UK as a result of their immigration status. On receipt of this, the landlord will be expected to take immediate action to ensure that the illegal migrant leaves the property’" says Simon.
“This shows muddled thinking by officials. What is the point of the Home Office agreeing that they know where an illegal immigrant is living and serving a notice which enables the landlord to remove them? The migrant then leaves and goes off who knows where, possibly to be at the mercy of criminals. And are landlords really going to be able to evict tenants with a piece of paper, even with the Home Office assurance that it is as powerful as a court order?" she asks.
Simon says it would have been better if the Home Office "sent officials to do the risky business of forcing someone, possibly desperate to remain in the UK, to leave their home."
She is also critical that the Home Office advises that an existing tenant becoming an illegal immigrant, possibly through overstaying a visa, is not a ground for eviction – but ‘landlords may be able to gain possession for other reasons’.
“It appears that poor planning and some very underage thinking lie behind this factsheet and drawing up policy within the Home Office. The simplicity with which the Home Office tries to deal with a complex issue that could criminalise both landlords and lettings agents is impossible to comprehend" she insists.