Immigration Bill

Written evidence from the Residential Landlords Association (IB 02)

SUMMARY OF VIEWS ON THE IMMIGRATION BILL – RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES (PART 3 CHAPTER 1)

1. The Association advocates the deletion of Chapter 1 in Part 3 of the Bill in its entirety. We believe that these provisions are unworkable and will be ineffective, as they will not achieve their objective. Rather illegal immigrants and overstayers will be driven further into a murky underground world, with a "grey" economy proliferating in the private rented sector (PRS) as a direct result. Landlords should not have to take on this burden which results from the failure over the years of the immigration authorities to protect our borders.

2. Most PRS landlords are small businesses (only 10% have 10 or more properties). The reality is that many landlords will not operate these provisions through ignorance, belief that the rules do not apply to them (many people who rent out property do not see themselves as landlords), inability to understand the complex rules or wilful disregard. Based on our experience in other areas of enforcement , compliance levels will be so low as to make the provisions worthless. Other landlords, aware of their responsibilities, will discriminate against those they perceive to be "non British" for fear of getting it wrong. They will be refused tenancies. Existing law enforcement activity, in relation to employees coupled with low resources at the Home Office will aid a culture of non-implementation of the rules. As always the responsible landlord will try to make the best of it, but the many ignorant landlords and the criminals will disregard these requirements.

3. Whilst many landlords may already carry out some form of tenant vetting this does not mean that they want to take on the risks associated with carrying out these new obligations. They simply do not have the skills or experience to operate immigration status checking.

4. Of particular concern is the effect of Clause 17 of the Bill. In our view this makes a contract to rent to an illegal immigrant or overstayer unlawful. The consequence is that the landlord cannot recover rent or possession until the end of the contractual term. The "illegal" tenant will be rewarded as a consequence. The Government tells us that this is not their intention so the Bill needs to be amended to make this clear.

5. The structure of the Chapter should be simplified by –

· only making landlords responsible for (a) pre-agreement checks or (b) checks where a landlord’s consent to a tenancy changes/someone moving in is required and applied for or (c) the landlord is legally a party to such a changeover.

· The disqualification provisions should be removed (Clause 17). The duty should simply be to check on status and for the penalty to apply only if this is breached in relation to an adult who is not a relevant national.

· Landlords should not have any further duty to check (beyond what is set out in the first bullet point) in respect of those with limited leave until any express renewal of the tenancy takes place.

· Limiting the "superior landlord" concept accordingly.

· The purpose of the check should be restated to focus on the documents produced.

6. The issue of illegal immigrants and overstayers of whom the Home Office is aware needs to be considered especially for those of long standing, including how they could be given permission to occupy (Clause 16(3)).

7. There should be a facility allowing landlords to notify the Home Office that they have granted a tenancy accompanied by copy documents which absolve the landlord from any risk of a penalty.

8. Further issues include –

· Landlords should only be penalised for accepting forged documents if the forging is "obvious". This needs writing into the Bill.

· The negligence limb should be removed in relation to the enquiries about occupiers (Clause 17(5)(b)).

· Penalty notices should only be served if there is reasonable  suspicion of a contravention.

· The onus of proof should be on the Home Office to prove a contravention; not the other way round.

9. We will submit a detailed memorandum regarding proposed amendments.

October 2013

Prepared 30th October 2013