Ministers are apparently backtracking on the planned requirement to get landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
David Cameron is said to have turned puce when told that the proposed law would have to be watered down.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, the requirement – to be part of a new Immigration Bill – will not be universal. Instead, only landlords in certain areas will have to carry out the checks.
The Telegraph named some boroughs in the west of London – for example, Hounslow.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles apparently thinks that making the requirement mandatory on all landlords would have been too much red tape, resulting in costs having to be passed on to all tenants.
A source said: “It is just making sure implementation is done in a commonsense way. We want to do it in a way that does not inflict red tape on millions of people.
“What we want to avoid is disproportionate regulations on the private rented sector.
“If you are British we don’t want a bureaucratic check, the cost of which is passed on to the landlord and then the tenants.
“It is a question of getting the balance right and targeting the regulations at high-risk areas and not to over-regulate the whole market.”
The requirement to check tenants’ immigrant status was introduced in the Queen’s Speech, but there are suggestions that it had not been thought through properly.
There were also concerns that it would have been quite simply unworkable: the only way a landlord could be expected to check a tenant’s immigrant status would have been to put in a call to the UK Border Agency which, say critics, is not up to the job.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “The Government will avoid burdening the private rented sector with excessive red tape and will not adversely affect UK nationals looking to rent.”
However, it is unclear how the Government could bring in a new law which would bear on only certain areas, without running into problems such as changing demographics and accusations of racial discrimination.