I saw this write up in the African Voice concerning the Immigration Bill announced recently in the Queens speech and thought of sharing it with you.
“The government has said landlords who let accommodation to individuals who are not legally allowed to live in the UK will have to pay at least £1,000 in penalties.
The announcement was made during consultation around the controversial Immigration Bill, which will make it illegal for landlords to let to many individuals without first checking their immigration status.
The Bill was first made public as part of last month’s Queen’s Speech, causing anger among thousands of homeowners who have tenants and among landlord associations. Now the penalties for landlords and letting agents who let to so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ have been announced as running run to £1,000 per tenant for the first offence, and £3,000 per tenant thereafter. Licences for homes in multiple occupation could also be revoked.
Initially, the intent was that all landlords had to conform, but changes now suggest this law will only be applied in ‘problem areas’ around England. Representatives of BME and other immigrant homeowners have criticised the change as likely to disproportionately target their communities.
The Bill has also come in for criticism from other quarters. Landlords are concerned as to how tenants might react to being subjected to the types of security questions and checks normally imposed only by enforcement officers. Politicians have also entered the fray. During the debate that followed the Queen’s Speech, Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart said: “I am not sure how a landlord is supposed to be able to prove to their own satisfaction whether someone is qualified [to live in the UK] or not. In order to operate the proposal sensibly, it will probably require a register of landlords.”
Commenting on an increase in bureaucracy that is at odds with the Government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ pledges, Residential Landlords Association chairman Alan Ward said: “The private rented sector is already creaking under the weight of red tape, so it is little wonder that landlords are so clearly opposed to this flagship government measure.
“For a government committed to reducing the burden of regulation, it is ironic that they are now seeking to impose a significant extra burden on landlords.”
According to the Residential Landlords Association, there are currently over 100 rules and regulations governing private sector letting. While they accept some of the continuing changes are good news; they say others will simply end up adding more regulation that good landlords and letting agents will abide by and rogues will ignore. As few local authorities have the resources to monitor rogue landlords, fine them and take them to court, in practice extra regulation will do little to curb their activity.
There had been speculation that the proposals may be watered down or scrapped altogether, but this week’s announcement suggests that the Bill’s provisions are likely to be implemented. If so, there are several vital things that landlords should keep in the forefront of their minds. The first is the importance of proper tenant referencing. By ensuring that tenants’ credit history, previous landlords, and employment status are checked, landlords can minimise the risk of non-payment and other problems.
Secondly, as Cooper and Mactaggart pointed out, the prospect of a nationwide register of landlords remains a real one. Registers have already been introduced in parts of the UK, and landlords should be prepared for a national list in the future”.