Landlord Blog: Why immigration checks aren’t ticking any boxes

Published: 28/05/2014

With news that landlords could soon be required to check the immigration status of potential tenants, Rob Denman voices his opinion on what he believes must happen before The Immigration Bill is passed:

“There has been a lot of talk about giving landlords the responsibility of verifying a tenant’s immigration status but now it seems these plans are about to come to fruition, with expectations The Immigration Bill will be passed by October 2014.

“But if landlords are to be made the poster child for immigration checks, the simple truth is they have to be given the right tools for the job, particularly given the associated fines.

“First things first, how exactly will a landlord find out a person’s immigration status. The only information I can find to date reads:

“With the new Bill, any tenant who cannot prove they are a British Citizen, a national of an EEA State or a Swiss National must have their immigration status verified before they can be offered any kind of tenancy.”

“Again I ask, how? I’m guessing it not like going to the pub quiz with your knowledgeable teammate Google and I can’t recall the website No offence to the tenant in question but I doubt that if they are in the county illegally they are going to be all that forthcoming with the information.

“I am also somewhat troubled by the highly subjective safety net being given to landlords should a tenant turn out to be in the country illegally. Providing the landlords can show they made a ‘reasonable effort’ to establish the tenant’s status then they will not be penalised.

“This caveat is in fact a recent addition to the Bill, made by the Government after the RLA rightly raised concerns. But it is still by no means foolproof as there are likely to be very different definitions of what constitutes ‘reasonable effort’.

“There also seems to be glaring hole regarding what would happen if a tenant, whose tenancy started before The Immigration Bill came into play, turned out to be here illegally? Will landlords have to verify all existing tenants? If so, at what point – immediately or when the tenancy agreement comes up for renewal? And then how do they go about evicting any illegal tenants? Do they have to follow the same procedure for any tenant eviction? There are so many questions and no sign of any answers.

“I fear the only thing these checks will lead to is an increase in prejudice. I believe many landlords will choose only to rent to British citizens, deeming all non-British citizens too ‘high risk’ and I sincerely doubt, and hope, that was not the intention of the changes.”

Content correct at time of publication

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