Following the introduction of new rules, landlords will be obliged to verify the immigration status of those renting property from them. The announcement, which is hoped to help towards reducing illegal immigration, was made in the Queen’s Speech from the House of Lords on 8th May.
Fairer social housing and tackling rogue landlords
The proposal was initially revealed by David Cameron in March and is aimed at aiding fairer allocation of social housing and to curb immigration, which has grown unsustainably; UK nationals will however not be affected by the proposal. Under the new rules local people will be given priority when it comes to social housing funded by the taxpayer, as currently it is perceived that foreign nationals are housed in preference, with a sixth of social housing in London and one tenth nationwide being occupied by immigrants. Councils will be given guidance to amend their housing policies so that those waiting for social housing will be established residents in the area or have local connections; an exception will be made for those in the armed forces.
Unscrupulous landlords will also no longer be able to make money by renting their property to tenants who are in the country illegally, often exploiting them by providing poor quality accommodation in the knowledge they will not complain to the authorities. Understandably, plans to place a responsibility on landlords with regards to immigration status have not been welcomed by all.
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A concerning proposal
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has spoken out against the proposed ruling, stating that not only will it make being a landlord more difficult for those new to the sector, but will also pose a risk to both landlords and tenants. Concerns have been raised that these proposals could increase the cost to tenants, who are already financially stretched at it is. New landlords, who frequently have limited training or guidance, are also not in a good position to be able to make judgements with regards to which of their tenants are within the UK legally, which could have far reaching consequences. According to Rics’ head of external affairs, the absence of adequate laws to safeguard landlords and tenants, despite requests to the Government to look into this area, makes it difficult to believe that landlords can be expected to provide assistance with regards to the UK’s immigration policy.
However, Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, has advised that the process would be quick, easy and not costly for neither landlords nor tenants; many landlords already request to see passports for proof of ID, so the request to see visas will be little hardship. Help would also be provided to landlords from the UK Border Agency to carry out the required checks. Although it has not yet been made clear, landlords presented with forged documents would be unlikely to face prosecution, unless it is clear that they were invalid.