Consultation has just closed on proposals by the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Greg Clark, that add up to a double whammy for illegal immigrants and rogue landlords.
The government wants private sector landlords to take on the responsibility of policing access to rented homes by checking the immigration status of prospective tenants. There’s quite a big stick to make sure they do the job properly, too. Landlords and property agents who repeatedly fail to conduct so-called “right to rent” checks, or fail to remove illegal immigrants from their property, may face a fine, up to five years’ imprisonment and sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Conservatives are pressing ahead with the proposals after being restrained by the Liberal Democrats during the coalition and allowed only to conduct a pilot scheme in the West Midlands. One way they are trying to win support for the scheme is by presenting the measures as also cracking down on bad landlords who exploit tenants in the private rented sector by letting substandard accommodation.
While landlords will be given the means to end a tenancy when a person’s leave to remain in the UK ends – in some circumstances without a court order – there will also be a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents, helping councils to focus enforcement action on where it is most needed.
Repeat offenders will be prevented from renting out property. Other proposed measures include:
- 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 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.
At the same time, landlords will be able to recover abandoned properties more quickly without the need to go to court.
So there’s something in the clever Mr Clark’s proposals for the government, by being seen to be tougher on illegal immigrants; for landlords who can face having to evict such tenants in very stressful circumstances; and for tenants renting from unscrupulous landlords and agents.
Now we shall have to watch and see how the consultation alters the proposed legislation. But I note that Richard Lambert, chief executive at the National Landlords Association, said: “If landlords are to be asked to take on the responsibility of policing access to rented homes they must be able to end tenancies swiftly and without undue costs. This is the absolute minimum necessary to enable landlords to carry out this new duty and is a welcomed move.”
The association still has worries, though. Lambert said: “Tenants, facing eviction and potential deportation, are likely to be unpredictable and the NLA is worried that landlords may be unprepared to balance the requirement to meet their new legal obligations with the practical matter of ending a tenancy in what could be stressful and possibly confrontational circumstances.”
Watch this space.