Coalition rolls out immigration rental check scheme
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Legal, Regulation
New immigration plan rewards return to home country
The coalition government has begun an immigration rental check pilot scheme across five local authority areas in the Midlands.
From 1 December, private landlords in the regions of Sandwell, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley will be required to check that their prospective tenants have a right to live in the UK before letting to them.
Though the new rules will only apply to tenancies begun after 1 December, landlords that rent to anyone not legally entitled to reside in the country after that date will face a fine of £3,000.
The Home Office has said that the checks, which only apply to tenants aged 18 or over, can be performed by asking to see a passport or a biometric residence permit.
The new rules also apply to those who take in lodgers to "share their accommodation with a licence to occupy the property".
However, charity Crisis has raised concerns that the policy could increase homelessness.
Matt Downie, Crisis' director of policy and external affairs, said: “It is hard enough for homeless people to find a place to live and we are concerned that asking them to prove their immigration status to landlords could make matters worse.
“Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen during periods of moving around or when sleeping rough and replacements can be expensive. In today’s high pressured rental market, landlords are unlikely to wait for a tenant to produce the required documents, choosing instead to rent to someone who can immediately provide the evidence.
“We welcome measures to make it easier for people to prove their identity, as well the exemptions for hostels and emergency shelters. However, more needs to be done to protect homeless people and we will be working closely with the government to make sure this happens.”
And the measures have also been strongly opposed by the Residential Landlords Association.
A survey carried out by the RLA found that 82% of landlords oppose the plan - and the organisation believes that the proposals will jeopardise good landlord and tenant relationships.
Chris Town, the RLA’s vice chairman, said: “Many British people do not have a passport and for those tenants on housing benefits, without passports, this will create an added difficulty for landlords.
“Whilst the RLA fully supports measures to ensure everyone in the UK legally resides here, this policy continues to smack of political posturing rather than a seriously thought through policy.
“For a government committed to reducing the burden of red tape it is ironic that they are now seeking to impose a significant extra burden on landlords making them scapegoats for the UK Border Agency’s failings.”