What the Immigration Bill Means for Landlords

The new Immigration Bill plans were recently announced by Home Secretary, Theresa May.

Her plans intend to “create a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants” but may in fact cause a hostile environment for Landlords and legal tenants instead. Amongst her plans are fines for Landlords who haven’t checked the Immigration status of their tenants.

Following approval by MPs the Bill is expected to become law in 2015 and intends to beef up checks on immigrants attempting to gain access to key services such as housing, health and banking. The Bill also introduces a “deport first, appeal later” policy for immigrants facing deportation who aren’t viewed as being at “risk of serious irreversible harm” from being sent back.

Key points from the Bill for Landlords

The Bill may be watered down before it comes into force in 2015 but as it stands Landlords will:

  • Be required to carry out Immigration checks on tenants before tenancies commence.
  • In the case of tenants with a time limit on their stay in the UK, Landlords will also be required to conduct annual checks (or when the tenants stay is due to expire, if later). If the tenant’s visa has expired then the Landlord will be responsible for reporting the breach to the Home Office.
  • Face fines of up to £3000 if they are found to be letting to illegal immigrants. Landlords making one off, honest mistakes, would receive lower fines compared with repeat offenders, who would face much heavier penalties.
  • Risk having their HMO licences revoked if they are found to be letting to illegal immigrants.

Concerns over the Bill

Beyond the question of whether Landlords should be responsible for policing our borders, concerns have been raised that legitimate immigrants may find it more difficult to find accommodation with the Residential Landlords Association warning that some Landlords will simply refuse to house immigrants for fear of falling foul of the new law.

Further concerns have been expressed by the Immigration Law Practitioners‘ Association, who have warned the Home Secretary that the proposed Bill would create a system of identity checks for all, inconveniencing British nationals and legal immigrants.

What this means for Landlords

If the Bill is passed, landlords will have to use Tenant Referencing Services to carry out checks on prospective tenants or risk potential fines of up to £3000 and the removal of their HMO licenses.

Landlords will however have another 2 years until the Bill is expected to become law in 2015, with a pilot now expected to run first. The Bill was originally anticipated to become law in Spring 2014 but with the Lib Dems expressing concern over the potential impact of the Bill, it is expected that the new rules will be tested in a pilot area before being rolled out in 2015. The pilot scheme could potentially lead to the Bill being watered down if some of the proposed rules prove to be impractical.

You can read the full Bill on the Parliament.uk website.