When plans were first made public regarding the role that landlords would play in identifying those people who are not rightfully able to live in the UK, it was thought that they might just apply to areas deemed to be at high risk from this problem. However, it was announced in July by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, that to avoid discrimination, any tenant will need to provide their passport or another source that proves they have the right to stay in Britain. This avoids the situation where landlords would make an assumption, based on factors such as someone’s name, ethnicity or their first language, about their migration status. Landlords will also be required to judge whether immigration documents appear genuine; if they suspect they have been forged, a landlord is required to make contact with the Home Office to make their concerns known.
The impact of these changes
This change would have an impact on the four million people who currently rent a house or flat from the UK’s 1.4 million private landlords. At the time when they sign their tenancy agreement, tenants would be asked to provide their passport if a UK citizen and for those whose home was originally outside of the European Economic Area, they would be expected to show either their permit for residency or their visa stamp. Only after they had been satisfied by the residency status of each prospective tenant could landlords let out a room; it would not be a lawful option to choose to rent to anyone who couldn’t offer the necessary documentation. Failure to conduct these checks could lead to landlord fines of £1000 for each tenant illegally living here, which could rise to £3000 per illegal immigrant if landlords had been warned previously about non-compliance with the checks.
A burden for landlords
The National Landlords Association has expressed worries that landlords will be burdened by these new checks; the only way that the system will work is if it is easily understood and simple to implement for landlords. They feel that what is expected of landlords should not be any greater than that expected of employers who currently need to review whether job applicants have the right to work here; they should only be required to verify someone is as they say and that they have the necessary paperwork to demonstrate their right to be in the UK.
By Amy Millband