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Landlords face £3,000 fines for renting to illegal immigrants

Landlords who rent accommodation to illegal immigrants risk being fined up to £3,000 under plans recently proposed by the UK Government. Ministers want to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to rent private accommodation in the UK.

The Home Office has issued a consultation paper on tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation and is seeking views on its proposals that landlords carry out immigration checks on tenants. 

Penalties for renting accommodation to illegal non-EEA immigrants

Under the proposals, all private landlords will have to carry out checks on the immigration status of every tenant before renting out a room or house. Penalties for those who provide rented accommodation to illegal non-EEA migrants will include:

  • £1,000 fine per illegal migrant for a first offence.
  • £3,000 fine per illegal migrant for a repeat offence.
  • HMO landlords will lose their licences.

The penalties will also apply to letting agents. In addition, the proposals apply to hotels and providers of holiday accommodation with guests who stay for three months or more.

The rules will not apply to

  • social housing rented to tenants;
  • hostels;
  • college halls of residences;
  • boarding schools or
  • children’s homes.

The Home Office insists that the checks landlords are being asked to make are similar to those employers currently use before hiring staff.

What kind of evidence will people be required to produce?

The Home Office consultation states: ‘If a person cannot produce satisfactory evidence, the landlord should not rent accommodation to them’. Under the proposals, prospective tenants will have to produce this evidence from a checklist of documents in order to prove they have permission to live in the UK

The checklist of valid documents includes:

  • a British or EEA passport;
  • a birth certificate;
  • national insurance number;
  • driving licence;
  • naturalisation certificate;
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or
  • residence certificate.

Landlords will have to check the papers of all adults who will be living in the property and keep a copy of this for their records.

Landlords and charities critical of Home Office proposals

Unsurprisingly, the proposals have come in for criticism. Landlords warn that they cannot be expected to act as immigration experts and perform the role of border police.  Housing charities worry that landlords may become reluctant to rent accommodation to foreign nationals.   Migrant workers and foreign nationals may find it increasingly difficult to find accommodation as the additional paperwork requirements may cause delays.  Landlords may decide to play it safe and rent accommodation to “local” applicants, rather than run the risk of delays or even prosecution.

Housing charities are concerned about

  • the risk that the administrative costs associated with these costs will be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents and fees;
  • the potential impact on vulnerable people, fleeing domestic violence and other emergency situations who may not be able to produce the paperwork at short notice to satisfy this requirement;
  • how people who have applications to stay in the UK pending will satisfy this requirement and whether the Home Office will confirm their immigration status quickly enough;
  • the impact on people who may have decided to let a room in their properties to lodgers to alleviate the impact of the “bedroom tax”.

When the proposal was first mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, Labour’s shadow housing spokesman Jack Dromey MP said: “Tackling illegal immigration must not take us back to the days when my Irish father was turned away from boarding houses displaying ‘no dogs, no Irish’ signs”. The consultation paper states: “Landlords must make checks on a non-discriminatory basis, i.e. they should not make any assumptions about a person’s migration status based on their ethnicity, name, accent, etc.”

 

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Policy, Equality, Landlord
This article was written on 8 August 2013. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.