Landlords Face Tougher Penalties Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Face Tougher Penalties Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Must Evict Illegal Immigrants Or Face Prison Under New Immigration Bill Proposals

It has been announced that UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords could face a 5 year prison sentence if they fail to conduct proper ‘Right to Rent’ checks included in new Government proposals for the Immigration Bill

The proposed changes to legislation will require PRS landlords to verify the immigration status of all prospective tenant applicants, before tenancies are agreed. Any landlord who repeatedly fails to conduct these checks would be in breach of a new offence, carrying maximum penalties of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.

The announcement was made just as British and French authorities struggle to deal with large numbers of immigrants attempting to breach security at the French port of Calais in order to cross the Channel to reach the UK.

The Home Office intend to notify landlords when an asylum application fails stating that the tenant does not have the right to rent property in the UK.

This will allow UK PRS landlords to end the tenancy immediately, without a court order in some circumstances.

The proposed changes to the immigration bill goes against the current statute for tenant eviction, causing a great deal of concern for landlords, as they are unsure as to how they are supposed to deal with a situation where an illegal immigrant had been refused the right to rent by the Home Office but was already in rented property.

The proposed changes to the Immigration Bill legislation includes measures that will:

  • Allow landlords to evict illegal immigrants without a court order
  • Impose a fine or imprisonment of up to five years on landlords if they fail to check the immigration status of tenants
  • Introduce a new fit and proper test for landlords to ensure the properties are safe for tenants
  • Allow councils to ban repeat offending landlords from renting out properties
  • Financial support for failed asylum seekers will also end under the plans.

There has already been a great deal of confusion over the issue of checking documents of tenants to verify their immigration status, brought to light by the trial consultation in operation in the West Midlands, which is still ongoing.

The risk is that migrants with unusual documents could be wrongfully evicted by landlords who are unable to understand their documentation or who don’t want the added risk.

Those landlords could find themselves facing an unlawful eviction claim if they are wrong despite acting in good faith at the time.

The Home Office changes to the Immigration Bill will introduce a notice intended to “remove the protections currently afforded to illegal immigrants by the Protection for Eviction Act and the Housing Act 1988”.

The expectation is that this notice will be clear and unambiguous, empowering landlords to “take steps to evict the tenant, after a short notice period, without the need for a court process for repossession, unless eviction requires the use of force.”

No Rogue LandlordsMeasures will also be introduced to crack down on rogue landlords who appear to exploit vulnerable migrants by renting out unfit flats and houses.

Greg Clark

Greg Clark

In a statement to the Guardian newspaper Greg Clark, Communities Secretary said “The government will crack down on rogue landlords who make money by exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system. We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties. A blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents will allow local authorities to keep track of those who have been convicted of housing offences and ban them from renting out properties if they are repeat offenders.

James Brokenshire

James Brokenshire

Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, added to the controversy, saying that he wanted to “send out a very clear message to those who seek to exploit the system that Britain is not a soft touch on asylum”.

However, the government have not presented any solid evidence that landlords are actually involved in housing illegal immigrants, raising more concerns that the Government are lining up landlords and letting agents  for prosecution for not being able to operate within the new and highly complex system.

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