Visa checks could see landlords facing physical danger
MPs have been told that landlord could be put in physical danger by being asked to check the immigration status of their tenants.
Government plans require private landlords to inquire whether prospective tenants are living in the UK legally. The National Landlords Association said that the property owners confronting tenants could be accused of harassment. However the government have said that the system would be “effective and light-touch”.
Ministers say that voluntary checks the some landlords currently carry out have identified people as not entitled to be in the UK and it wishes to make this mandatory as part of its Immigration Bill, reports the BBC.
As of October 2014, landlords will be expected to carry out “straightforward” background checks on new tenants. Ministers are insisting that they do not expect landlords to become immigration experts and that property owners “taking simple steps have nothing to fear”.
Landlords found renting rooms to those not entitled to be in the UK will not face criminal penalties like those an employer would, however they will be liable for fines. Ministers say that they wish to minimise the administrative burden on landlords and if no answer has been received from the home office after 48 hours they can go ahead and rent.
Richard Jones, from the Residential Landlords Association, told a committee of MPs scrutinising the bill that he believed the proposals were “unworkable”. He said that he had been told that ten Home Office staff were being assigned to help landlords and “very little” has been done in the way of additional resources was being made available to make them aware of what was expected of them.
National Landlords Association chair Carolyn Uphall, has said that the principle of having to undertake pre-tenancy checks was not in question.
“Landlords simply cannot walk in the property and require the tenant to speak to them,” she said. “If a landlord just turns up unannounced that can be harassment and a criminal offence. In the worse scenario, the tenant feeling themselves possibly under threat – because they might be sent out of the country and perhaps back to a war zone they are very frightened off – could potentially become aggressive with the landlord. You only need one incident where the landlord and tenant get in some sort of physical situation for that publicity to put all landlords off even considering taking on anyone on a temporary visa. Then you have all those people as vulnerable tenants forced into the underclass of rogue operators who will not care who take and certainly will not inform the immigration authorities.”
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