22 September 2015, New powers that will apparently allow residential landlords to send illegal immigrants into hiding have been questioned by one of the UK’s top lettings agents.
Lisa Simon, head of residential lettings for national property consultancy Carter Jonas, says that factsheets just issued by the Home Office in support of the Immigration Bill 2015 show that landlords will be helped to evict illegal migrants thanks to a new form.
“The factsheet reveals how this will be done,” says Mrs Simon. “It states ‘The Bill will enable landlords to evict illegal migrants more easily, and in some circumstances without a court order. Landlords will obtain a notice issued by the Home Office which confirms that the tenant is disqualified from renting in the UK as a result of their immigration status. On receipt of this, the landlord will be expected to take immediate action to ensure that the illegal migrant leaves the property.’
“Immigration Minister James Brokenshire goes so far as to say that landlords who don’t show illegal migrants the door could themselves be shown the door to a prison cell.
“This shows muddled thinking by officials. What is the point of the Home Office agreeing that they know where an illegal immigrant is living and serving a notice which enables the landlord to remove them? The migrant then leaves and goes off who knows where, possibly to be at the mercy of criminals. And are landlords really going to be able to evict tenants with a piece of paper, even with the Home Office assurance that it is as powerful as a court order?
“How much better it would be if the Home Office took advantage of the landlord’s notification and sent officials to do the risky business of forcing someone, possibly desperate to remain in the UK, to leave their home.
“The Home Office is also intending to introduce four new criminal offences to target what they describe as ‘unscrupulous landlords and agents who exploit migrants and repeatedly fail to carry out right to rent checks, fail to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their property (sic). These landlords or agents may face a fine, up to five years imprisonment, both a fine and imprisonment and further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act’.
“Ironically, at the moment the Home Office advises that an existing tenant becoming an illegal immigrant, possibly through overstaying a visa, is not a ground for eviction – but ‘landlords may be able to gain possession for other reasons’.
“It appears that poor planning and some very underage thinking lie behind this factsheet and drawing up policy within the Home Office. The simplicity with which the Home Office tries to deal with a complex issue that could criminalise both landlords and lettings agents is impossible to comprehend.
“So far the scheme has only been rolled out in a small area of the West Midlands since December last year but the Home Office has revealed in the first six months the Home Office Landlords Checking Service right to rent aid was used more than 11,000 times and the helpline took more than 800 calls to support those working with the scheme. I’m concerned that there will be insufficient resource in place to cope with a national roll-out of Right to Rent, which as yet has no confirmed timetable but other documents issued by the Home Office covering enabling powers for devolved assemblies suggest Right to Rent may cover the whole of England, and possibly Wales and Scotland, by May next year.”