Landlord immigration checks, the good the bad & the ugly – Part two.

Richard Blanco, the NLA’s Regional Representative for London
Richard Blanco, the NLA’s Regional Representative for London

If you read part one yesterday our London Representative Richard Blanco spoke about proper tenant checks and the media reaction to the immigration bill. Today he touches upon what landlords face in the future, what if any support landlords are getting from the government and the NLA campaign to revise the bill.

‘So what are the concerns?  Well let’s look first at the main technical one – the requirement to report tenants whose immigration paperwork expires during the course of the tenancy.  If this happens to an employer, assuming the employee has been with them for less than two years, they can summarily dismiss them without being accused of unfair dismissal.  Although the member of staff would have to leave employment that day, there are no risks to the employer.  But as landlords we are subject to housing legislation and cannot summarily evict a tenant, even if we wanted to, for losing the right of abode in the UK.  The government says that we should simply report them to the home office.  But we know that much of our business relies on good tenant relations, and asking our tenants repeatedly about their immigration status is unlikely to play well.  Also tenants could understandably become aggrieved if the landlord reports them to the home office.  They may feel desperate, stop paying rent and even become hostile and take out their frustration on the landlord or the property.

NLA campaign

The NLA is campaigning to get the government to change these requirements.  I am particularly concerned that landlords would avoid taking tenants with restricted immigration status for fear of repercussions.  This is hopeless for prospective tenants who happen to have short visas and hope to renew them and could be unlawful discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or race.  It also flies in the face of a number of other government policies, such as a desire to attract overseas students and the best talent for global businesses based in the UK.

I have worked for many years as a trainer and diversity consultant and I know that lots of people confuse issues of immigration status and ethnicity. A BBC report last week demonstrated the blatant discrimination that black applicants can experience.  A white applicant for a flat was offered a viewing by an agent where the black tenant was wrongly told that the same flat had been taken.  The agent said that they were complying with the landlord’s instructions, but this is unlawful.  I hear many anecdotes from landlords who say that they prefer not to house people from certain ethnicities because of one bad experience.  Apart from the social injustice, this attitude just makes bad business sense because the landlord is restricting their pool of applicants and perpetuating their own fixed attitude.

I worry that these immigration checks will make finding rented property for black and ethnic minority tenants even more difficult.  One of my tenants, who kindly allowed the Channel 4 crew to film in their home, put it well when she said: “it feels like people are being asked to snoop on one another.”

Many landlords complain that we are all being turned into the border police. This is not good for community relations.

Government support?

The government argues that there is a lot of support for these measures and that it is simply not fair that people who pay nothing into the system should be able to enjoy the benefits of living in the UK.

This argument is flawed as many people here illegally work extremely hard in the shadow economy and are helping to regenerate the UK.  Measures like these checks will push them even further underground and into the hands of exploitative criminal landlords. I would challenge the notion that the threat of a £3,000 fine will be a deterrent. ‘

Do you agree with Richard’s comments over the last few days? Let us know what you think about the immigration bill.

One thought on “Landlord immigration checks, the good the bad & the ugly – Part two.

  1. Whilst landlords are checking for immigration status, why not force them to check for valid driving licences, car insurance and MOT certificates as well? Oh I nearly forgot, landlords could also check that tenants from overseas have medical insurance to prevent the NHS from being ripped off! I guess HMR&C would also welcome a report on tenants employment status to ensure tenants are being taxed and not claiming benefits when they shouldn’t be! I guess the government will be able to scrap a whole bunch of government departments in addition to the Border Agency when the landlords take over!

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