Government urged to rethink illegal immigrant proposals
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Regulation
Standard housing pictureImage: Housing via Shutterstock
The British Property Federation (BPF) has warned the government that its proposals to tackle illegal immigration through rented homes could lead to landlords being prosecuted for failing to recognise complex immigration documents.
The BPF says that the plans are "disproportionate in their current form, and could prove ineffective in efforts to identify illegal immigrants".
If turned into legislation, the Home Office's proposals will force landlords to check all prospective tenants’ documentation for their permission to be in the UK, and conduct ongoing checks on their status - with the threat of a civil penalty if they rent to an illegal immigrant.
According to the BPF, every tenant, including all UK citizens, will have be checked at a cost of £156.5 million over three years.
And the organisation says that the effectiveness of the proposals will rest on landlords recognising complex documents that even skilled border control staff take time to check accurately, and that no research had been undertaken on whether landlords were up to that task.
The BPF stresses that the policy should only proceed on the basis of such research being undertaken, or after a pilot phase.
Earlier this week, Sarah Teather MP slammed the government's plans as potentially "disastrous".
The BPF has called for a number of reforms of the proposals, including:
• Introducing a simplified test for students, who already face additional immigration checks.
• Landlords should not have to check a tenant’s on-going visa status, and instead introduce a voluntary whistle blowing system for landlords to report those who are overstaying.
• Introduce a two-week compliance period before landlords are open to prosecution.
• Sunset the regulations after three-years, so they could only continue with parliament’s approval, if they proved effective.
Ian Fletcher, BPF director of policy, said: “We need to make sure these regulations are effective. It is a lot of effort to go if they are not.
"Landlords are not skilled immigration officers and their recognition of documents beyond the standard UK passport and birth certificate will not be high. Would your average man in the street know what a naturalisation certificate looks like, or right of abode certificate, or the passport of any country in the world?
"It takes skilled border control staff time to check the paperwork and credentials of those migrating from outside Europe and doesn’t suggest that the unskilled eye will find this easy. It would be reckless to proceed with these proposals without testing this central assumption that landlords will recognise a wide array of documents.
“As things stand, landlords will be open to prosecution immediately on occupancy. What happens if they cannot access the website, or the real-time helpline does not respond? We suggest a fairer a solution would be to allow a compliance period of two weeks to allow landlords to check and record documents.”