New Immigration Bill – landlords beware
The Queen’s speech, which fell on May 8th, outlines the legislative agenda for the coming year. One major focus this year is the upcoming Immigration Bill which aims to “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.” The focus on controlling immigration looks ahead to the end of the year, when the labour market restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria will be lifted, and amidst the increased success of more radical political parties like UKIP. It will be some months before the Bill is published in full, but some measures have been released.
One new proposal will make landlords legally responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants. Landlords will be required to seek copies of passports and visas and ensure the tenant is legally in the country, and will face fines that go up to thousands of pounds if they do not comply. There are not yet any details of the measures, such as the exact level of fines or how lay people are expected to establish the authenticity of any documents. These plans are expected to be targeted at letting rooms in multi-occupancy properties, but the regulations will be universal and apply to all landlords. Almost 2 million buy-to-let property owners are expected to be affected.
Professionals and commentators in the industry have already raised concerns that the government is essentially shifting responsibility for enforcing immigration policy onto the general public, and causing more unnecessary red tape and potential risk for landlords. It is also possible that if passed, the Bill could lead to rises in rent as the additional expenses have to be covered, and that discrimination against those with foreign backgrounds will increase.
Other proposals include larger fines for employers of illegal immigrants (the sum currently stands at £5,000) and restricting access to the NHS for foreign nationals. It will also be more difficult to utilise Article 8 (the right to a private and family life) to prevent deportation.