Immigration Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Crisis (IB 23)

Immigration Bill

Summary

· Crisis has long had concerns about the Right to Rent scheme introduced by the Immigration Act 2014. We are a member of the Home Office panel to advise on the roll out of the scheme and we have been successful in increasing the routes available to people who don’t have a passport to prove their identity.

· Crisis is extremely concerned that the new eviction routes proposed in the Bill will undermine the protections for tenants who do have the right to rent and set a dangerous legal precedence to move eviction cases out of the court system and make tenants more vulnerable to rogue landlords.

· We are also concerned that the harsh penalties for landlords who fail to evict tenants who don’t have the correct immigration status will compound the effect of the previous Immigration Act and make landlords much more ‘risk averse’ and less likely to rent to people who are may not have easily recognisable documentation, such as homeless people, as well leading to increased discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds .

Offences and Penalties

1. Crisis is concerned that the harsh penalties for landlords who fail to evict tenants who don’t have the correct immigration status will compound the effect of the previous Immigration Act and make landlords much more ‘risk averse’ and less likely to rent to people who may not have easily recognisable documentation such as homeless people, as well as leading to increased discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

2. The evaluation of the Immigration Act 2014 pilot in Birmingham shows that six of the local charities surveyed said people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while interviews with landlords found the ‘potential’ for discrimination. Seven of the charities reported that people who have the right to rent, but not the right documentation, were struggling to find accommodation [1] .

3. The evaluation also highlighted that there was an increased requirement for tenants to produce photo ID. Before the scheme, 53 out of 64 letting agents always required photo ID, which rose to 60 out of 64 after the scheme began. Before the scheme, 18 out of 35 landlords always requested photo ID, which increased to 26 out of 32 after the scheme began [2] .

4. Many homeless people seeking to move into private rented sector (PRS) accommodation will not have the documents they need to prove their identity, such as passport or birth certificate. Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen during periods of moving around or when sleeping rough or living in insecure accommodation. Replacing missing documents is costly and could be prohibitive for people on low income. In high pressured rental markets, landlords will often be in a position to let their property immediately. They are unlikely to be prepared to wait for a tenant to produce the required documents, choosing instead to rent to someone who can immediately provide the evidence.

5. The Right to Rent scheme also applies to live in landlords who take in lodgers. We are concerned that this will act as a disincentive to people letting out rooms in their home at a time of great housing pressure and high demand for rented accommodation. We are supportive of new clause 9 which would protect lodgers from the right to rent scheme.

6. Crisis therefore strongly supports amendment 73 that requires the Home Secretary to report on the likely impact to minority groups and British Citizens without passports or driving licences.

7. We also very strongly support new clause 7 and amendment 84 which would remove residential tenures (right to rent) provisions from broth the Immigration Act 2014 and the current immigration bill.

Evictions

8. The Bill introduces two new easy eviction routes for landlords to remove migrants found not to have the right to rent from their properties. Crisis is extremely concerned by this. These two new routes of eviction will undermine the protections for tenants who do have the right the rent and set a dangerous legal precedence to move eviction cases out of the court system.

9. While we understand the Government’s intention to make it easier for landlords to remove illegal immigrants, we are concerned that this will leave tenants who do have the legal right to rent much more vulnerable to illegal evictions.

10. Overall, Crisis believes clause 13 should be removed from the bill.

11. It is essential that the Home Office works closely with the Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments, and with stakeholders in those nations, on how the proposals will work with the tenancy regimes in those parts of the UK. We are particularly concerned that the new eviction routes will undermine proposals for greater security of tenancy as set out in the new Scottish Private Tenancies Bill.

Eviction route 1

12. Clause 13 (2) section 33D removes the rights afforded to tenants by the Protection from Eviction Act (1977) and Housing Act (1988), particularly the tenant’s right to challenge the notice via the court system and limits to the notice period provided.

13. This new eviction process will make tenants much more vulnerable to rogue landlords, who could falsely claim they have been notified by the Home Office that the tenant doesn’t have the right to rent. Taking the courts out of this process leaves a tenant with no opportunity to challenge possession proceedings and they could be illegally asked to leave their home with limited notice (only 28 days compared to the two months’ notice landlords are required to give when they serve a Section 21 no-fault eviction notice), leading to an increased risk of homelessness.

14. Cases of illegal evictions are rarely investigated and very few landlords are prosecuted; local authorities rarely use the enforcement powers they have under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and police forces often think that illegal eviction is a civil matter. Research from Shelter shows that 8% of tenants (650,000 tenants) indicated that one of the reasons for their last move was because they were informally asked to leave by their landlord or letting agent, without being given a legal notice.  In 2011 however, only 13 successful prosecutions occurred for unlawful eviction.

15. The Home Office should only issue the letter to the landlord if every appeals route has been exhausted. A significant proportion of asylum appeals are upheld. With regards to asylum cases, in 2013 the courts overturned 25% of negative decisions after they were appealed. (Home Office asylum statistics first quarter 2014). There are particular problems with decisions for women’s claims. The success rate at appeal for women has consistently been higher than that for men over a number of years. In 2013, 30% of appeals by women succeeded. Crisis is supportive of new clause 10 which enables asylum seekers who can afford to rent privately and people with outstanding appeals or judicial reviews the right to rent.

16. There are also a number of situations where someone’s claim for asylum fails but they are unable to return to the country they have left because there is no stable state to return to or it is unclear where they should return. The Home Office should clarify these people’s status with regards to the new eviction process.

Eviction route 2

17. Clause 13 (2) section 33E allows the landlord to terminate a tenancy if one of the tenants no longer has the right to rent but the others do . Crisis is concerned that this new eviction route will lead to people who do have the right to rent becoming at risk of homeless ness . Whilst we welcome the provision which gives courts the option to transfer the tenancy to the remaining tenants who do have the right to rent, there is no obligation for the courts to do so. Both the National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association raised this issue in their oral evidence to the committee and pointed out that it would be very difficult to implement We are very concerned that for many tenants, the uncertainty will prompt them to begin to look for another home in order to avoid homelessness.

18. Crisis is concerned that this new proposed eviction route will make it much harder for people to share accommodation, despite the government expectation that more people will live in shared accommodation following the extension of the shared accommodation rate to single people under the age of 35. The Home Office should include information of the potential risks of having a joint tenancy in DCLG’s ‘How to Rent’ guide, in light of the proposed new eviction route for households where some tenants do have the right to rent and other don’t.

19. Crisis also seeks clarification that in situations where a person who does not have the right to rent but has been living with family and friends as a guest, rather than paying rent, the rest of the household will not face eviction.

20. Crisis is supportive of amendment 69 which clarifies how a landlord can serve a notice terminating the tenancy. We would stress however that landlord must have to send the notice by recorded delivery and not just by post.

About Crisis

Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. We are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Our innovative education, employment, housing and well-being services address individual needs and help people to transform their lives.

As well as delivering services, we are determined campaigners, working to prevent people from becoming homeless and advocating solutions informed by research and our direct experience. Crisis has ambitious plans for the future and we are committed to help more people in more places across the UK. We know we won’t end homelessness overnight or on our own but we take a lead, collaborate with others and, together, make change happen.

October 2015


[1] Evaluation of the Right to Rent Scheme (2015), Home Office

[2] Evaluation of the Right to Rent Scheme (2015), Home Office

Prepared 29th October 2015