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Landlords seek revisions to immigration proposals

Responding to a government consultation on tackling illegal immigration via rented homes, the British Property Federation (BPF) has warned that the proposals, which could see landlords prosecuted for failing to recognise complex immigration documents, were disproportionate in their current form, and could prove ineffective in efforts to identify illegal immigrants.

Home Office proposals will force landlords to check all prospective tenants’ documentation for their permission to be in the UK, and conduct on-going checks on their status. They will face a civil penalty if they rent to an illegal immigrant. Every tenant, including all UK citizens, will have to be checked at a cost of £156.5 million over three years.

The BPF has warned that with such significant cost the proposals had better prove effective. The effectiveness of the proposals, however, rest on landlords recognising complex documents that even skilled border control staff take time to check accurately, and no research has been undertaken to assess whether landlords are up to that task. The BPF stresses that the policy should only proceed on the basis of such research being undertaken, or after a pilot phase.

The BPF has called for a number of reforms to the proposals, including:

  • To reduce the proportion of people checked, for example, introducing a simplified test for students, who already face additional immigration checks.
  • Landlords should not have to check a tenant’s on-going visa status.
  • Instead, introduce a voluntary whistle blowing system for landlords to report those who are overstaying.
  • Introduce a two week compliance period before landlords are open to prosecution – to expect instant compliance on occupancy was unrealistic in various scenarios and would put undue strain on the proposed real-time helpline.
  • Sunset the regulations after three-years, so they could only continue with Parliament’s approval, if they proved effective.
  • For Parliament to scrutinise the resource behind the proposed ‘real time’ helpline and budget for communicating these new rules to everyone likely to rent out, or live in, a private rented sector property in this country.

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