A bill which will require private sector landlords to check the migration status of their potential tenants has been released for public consultation.
Imigration bil to require a national register of private landlords
The Immigration Bill was announced during the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of May, and was initially criticised. Its detractors included Residential Landlords Association (RLA) Chairman Alan Ward, who opposed the additional burden that would be placed upon landlords, and Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who said that the measures would require a national register of private landlords to properly implement.
Loss of coalition gave government the oportunity to push ahead in 2015
Then, at the end of May, it was speculated that the legislation may be restricted to areas with large migrant populations, with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles understood to have been arguing for relaxation of the bill.
However, a public consultation was released on Wednesday 3 July which reveals both the scope of the bill and the levels of the fines being proposed for landlords who do not comply with the legislation.
What are the proposed penalties for landlords who do not check imigration status?
As it is currently proposed, the bill will be UK-wide in scope. Penalties for landlords who do not check the right of their tenants to work in the UK will be split into two categories: category A (a £1,000 fine per tenant) for landlords who have not been advised of a similar offence in the preceding three years, and category B (a £3,000 fine per tenant) for landlords who have. It is understood that the penalties may be proportionate to the severity of the breach and the intention behind it – landlords who make a “single honest mistake” could expect to pay less.
What this will mean for private rental landlords
The proposal is still just a proposal, and is open to consultation until 21 August. An advisable measure would be to read more about the bill on the gov.uk website, and to read the consultation document. If you belong to a local landlord’s association, pass on your feedback to them; it is entirely possible that they will be formulating an official response.
Tenant referencing wil become more important
We also advise that you maintain a strict tenant referencing procedure, including identity checks, credit checks, employment references and references from previous landlords. A concern raised by the possible implementation of the Immigration Bill is that landlords might discriminate against prospective tenants based on their ethnicity; please be aware that this is also a crime, and that you should avoid discrimination when selecting a new tenant.
As Ms Cooper and Ms Taggart MP observed, should the Bill pass, a national register of landlords might well be required, and you should entertain this as a real possibility. If any your local authority runs a licensing or accreditation scheme you have not already joined, you might consider doing so.