Landlords who rent properties to illegal immigrants will face up to five years in prison under a crackdown to be announced by the Government on 3 August.
The move is part a drive to make it harder for migrants to live in the UK when they have no right to be in the country. It is also aimed at landlords who house immigrants in unsafe and overcrowded properties. A blacklist of “rogue landlords” and letting agents who are repeat offenders will be created and they will be banned.
Under a law passed last year, landlords are required to check the residency status of tenants before offering them an agreement. If they fail to do so, face a civil penalty of up to £3,000 a night per adult resident. The scheme was first introduced in the West Midlands and will now be extended throughout England.
A criminal offence for landlords and agents who do not carry out the “right to rent” test or remove illegal immigrants will be included in the Immigration Bill which will be debated in Parliament this autumn. Repeat offenders could be fined, jailed for five years and have rent payments confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The new law, which will apply in England only, will enable landlords to evict illegal immigrants more quickly. Tenancies could be ended immediately when a person’s leave to remain in the country expires – in some cases without a court order.
Greg Clark, the Communities Secretary, said: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration – exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system. In future, landlords will be required to ensure that the people they rent their properties to are legally entitled to be in the country. We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties.”
However, the National Landlords Association has warned previously that immigration checks by landlords would drive vulnerable foreigners into the arms of an “underclass of rogue operators” as property owners would be tempted to rent only to white British people.
The UK Association of Letting Agents has said its members already carry out such checks every day but believes that it is not appropriate to make housing professionals responsible for policing the country’s borders. It said the checks could restrict access to housing to people from other countries.