The Government has announced its proposals for the new Immigration bill and there are significant ramifications for landlords letting to migrants.
These follow on the pilot scheme run in the West Midlands as part of the 2014 Immigration Act where landlords had to carry out “right to rent” checks on migrant tenants to ensure they were in the country legally. Penalties for failing to do so were up to £3,000. As far as I am aware, the results of this pilot have yet to be published.
Under the new proposals these checks will be extended to all landlords before they can give a migrant or asylum seeker a tenancy.
There will be a blacklist of landlords who have repeatedly failed to comply, so that local authorities can ban them from renting out property. This is to prevent rogue landlords from exploiting vulnerable migrants.
These repeat offenders may also face a fine or up to five years in prison, as well as further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Failed asylum seekers
The Bill also proposes that landlords will be obliged to end the tenancy should the asylum seeker/migrant lose their request to live in the UK.
The Home Office will issue the landlord with a notice that their tenant’s request has failed and that the tenant no longer has the right to rent a property.
Currently it is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order, which is enforced by an enforcement agent, either a County Court bailiff or a High Court Enforcement Officer is the possession order has been transferred to the High Court for enforcement under Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984.
However, the proposals suggest that the landlord may, under some circumstances, be permitted to end the tenancy without a court order. We await details of what those circumstances might be.
Cost of eviction
There is also the question of who covers the cost of an eviction. When a landlord chooses to evict a tenant for whatever reason, they will have good reason to do so and the costs will be seen as necessary means to an end.
However, what about when the landlord has a good tenant who has paid rent on time and looked after the property? I am not so sure they would be thrilled at the prospect of having to pay to obtain a court order to evict such a tenant.
Other measures in the bill
- A new tougher fit and proper person test for landlords of properties that have to be licenced, to ensure they do not pose a risk to the welfare or safety of tenants
- Extending Rent Repayment Orders so local authorities can claim back rent payments from landlords who abuse the housing benefit system by failing to ensure the property is maintained to a good standard
- Enabling local authorities to issue penalty notices for certain civil offences, with the money retained by the council and used for housing purposes
- Permitting the sharing of Tenancy Deposit Protection data to help councils crack down on rogue landlords who knowingly rent out unsafe and overcrowded accommodation
- Enabling landlords to recover abandoned properties more quickly without the need to go to court.
This bill is a measure designed to crackdown on illegal immigration, in common with many other governments around the world. However, it does seem to me that there is a significant burden being placed on landlords to “police” the accommodation aspect.
This might be somewhat mitigated though if landlords are provided with financial support to evict affected tenants – although I have my doubts about whether any such support would be much more than a token contribution.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance