Immigration Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Shelter (IB 33)

Key proposals provided by this Bill include:

· A new criminal offence for renting out property to adults disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status, carrying a maximum five year prison sentence for the worst offenders.

· Two new routes for evicting private tenants deemed not to have a ‘right to rent’:

Ø New powers for landlords to evict tenants without the ‘right to rent’ via the service of a 28 day notice without the need for a court possession order.

Ø Or apply for a court possession under a new mandatory possession ground. However, landlords are unlikely to choose this route as it would incur court costs and take longer to evict.’

· In the case of joint tenancies, where one or more tenants has the ‘right to rent’, all tenants would be evicted via the landlord’s notice. Alternatively, where the landlord has sought a court possession order, the court can order that the tenancy can be transferred to the remaining ‘qualifying tenants’.

Background

· The decline of homeownership and social housing mean that 1 in 4 families in England now rent privately [1] , but some struggle to find private landlords to take them on. Shelter research [2] in 2015 revealed that 36% of landlords won’t or prefer not to let to families with children.

· The research also revealed over a third (37%) of landlords admit that ‘It’s natural that stereotypes and prejudices come into it when I decide who to let to’, even before the ‘right to rent’ is rolled out UK-wide.

· It also found that around half of landlords who make decisions on letting to migrant tenants say the Immigration Act ‘right to rent’ checks are going to make them less likely to consider letting to people who don’t hold British passports or who ‘appear to be immigrants’.

For more information contact Shelter Public Affairs Team: public_affairs@shelter.org.uk.

Proposals in detail:

New criminal offence for renting out property to adults disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status.

1. The Bill creates new criminal offences for landlords and letting agents who don’t comply with the right to rent scheme or fail to evict tenants who don’t have the right to rent. It introduces a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment for a landlord who knowingly rents out his property to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent. It will also be a criminal offence for a landlord or agent to continue renting out a property when the Home Office has informed the landlord that the tenant doesn’t have the ‘right to rent’.

2. We believe that the impact of these stronger sanctions will lead to landlords being more likely to discriminate against BME renters, people with English as a second language and British nationals without proof they have a right to rent. This could compound the problems already faced by families on housing benefit, who already face discrimination in the private rental market: close to two-thirds (63%) of landlords either refuse, or prefer not to, let to benefit claimants.

3. People who are unable to produce documents may struggle to find anywhere to live. Some households (especially those who have fled domestic violence or been illegally evicted), can have good reasons for not having all the documents required to prove they are British or have valid permission to be in the UK.

4. Our concerns are borne out by our own landlord research (see ‘background’ section above). In addition, the Home Office evaluation of the trial ‘right to rent’ scheme indicates a potential for discrimination. Furthermore, an independent evaluation undertaken by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found the ‘right to rent’ checks are making it harder for people to find accommodation – including those who have every right to rent in the UK.  It also found that landlords are prepared to discriminate against those with a complicated immigration status and those who cannot pro vide documentation immediately.

Eviction without going through courts

5. The Bill will significantly weaken tenants’ protection from eviction, by making it possible for landlords to evict people who are deemed to have no ‘right to rent’, without the need for a court possession order. If the Secretary of State becomes aware that a person without a right to rent occupies the property, he will serve a notice on the landlord. The landlord can then serve a notice on the tenant, giving 28 days’ notice, bringing the tenancy to an end. Clause 13(2) line 32 states that ‘the notice is enforceable as if it were an order of the High Court’. We urge the Government to provide clarity on this point. Does this mean the landlord can carry out a ‘self-help’ eviction or would a High Court enforcement officer be required? In either case, tenants (including families with children) may have no prior notice of the eviction time.

6. This takes away a crucial legal safeguard, enshrined in the Protection from Eviction Act, which is to stop people being turned onto the streets by their landlord without the oversight and approval of a court. This means there will be no protection for tenants from being wrongly evicted.

7. Those without the ‘right to rent’ will face rapid eviction, as well as others who are unintentionally or mistakenly affected by this legislation. It will result in no-court eviction of joint tenants (including student flat-mates) who do have a ‘right to rent’, or families with children, who should have a ‘right to rent’ but are subject to an erroneous notice because of anomalies with their immigration status, perhaps because of administrative delays at the Home Office itself. Where families have been evicted and are street homeless, local authority children's services departments may face a significant increase in providing both accommodation and subsistence under the Children Act 1989. It could also impact on housing and homelessness departments.

We therefore support Amendment 86 to Clause 13(2), which would protect families with children from summary eviction under these provisions without the normal safeguards that protect against unlawful eviction. This is to ensure that families with children are protected against being made homeless with the associated risks to the safeguarding and protection of children.

We also support Amendments 84-90 and NC8-NC12.

November 2015


[1] Survey of English Housing, DCLG, 2013/14 – 24% of households with children are renting privately

[2] YouGov Plc, total sample size was 1,071 landlords. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th June - 14th July 2015. The survey was carried out online

Prepared 5th November 2015