Due to current political tensions and the fact that the UK is still recovering from the recession the subject of illegal immigrants entering the UK is extremely controversial. Many people have called on the government to do more to prevent people entering the UK illegally, however this is no mean feat. This is why last year the government made law the Immigration Act which means that landlords may be asked to vet their tenants in order to make sure that they are legal citizens.
It has now been revealed that the first tenant vetting scheme will be launched this December in the West Midlands. Once the scheme has gone live landlords could face fines of up to three thousand pounds if they are found not to be checking that their tenants are in the country legally. The scheme is being launched in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton first, however if proved successful it is likely it will be launched in other parts of the West Midlands or the rest of UK.
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “The right to rent checks will be quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here. They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation. Landlords in the West Midlands will have all the advice and support they need in advance of the checks going live on 1st December.
“Many responsible landlords already do this as a matter of routine, and most legal renters will have the correct documentation ready to hand. In most cases landlords will be able carry out these simple checks without the need to contact the Home Office.” Meanwhile, David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), said: “ARLA is dedicated to creating a professional private rented sector built on education, development and appropriate regulation. This is another step on that road.
“We are pleased the government has chosen to undertake a pilot project of the Immigration Act requirements before rolling them out nationwide. Reputable letting agents already undertake identification checks on potential tenants and therefore many of these provisions are enshrining best practice into law. However, it is essential this is robustly tested and any issues corrected before additional responsibilities are placed upon landlords and letting agents across the country.”
Isobel Thomson, chief executive officer of the National Approved Lettings Scheme, has also been working with the government to implement the scheme, and said: “We will be working with the Home Office on the way in which the new Right to Rent checks will operate and NALS is part of the Minister’s Working Party meeting next week to consider the draft Code of Practice. The new requirements must be workable for all parties and must not place undue pressure on agents and landlords to pick up the slack where Border Control measures have failed. As there will be a cost attached to carrying out these checks there is the risk that it may push up the cost of renting.
“We will ensure that prior to the launch of the pilot schemes on 1st December our agents and their landlords are aware of their responsibilities under the Act and the penalties for non-compliance.” When the Immigration Act was first introduced many landlords were concerned that it would adversely affect them as it would mean that they would not only have to reference their tenants but also learn how to vet them properly. Some claim that it is not their responsibility to make sure that their tenants are in the country legally, but the government’s. However, by working with a number of landlord associations, letting agents and even landlord insurance providers, the government and local authorities can ensure that the new scheme runs smoothly.
It is likely that some issues will crop up in the West Midlands once the immigrant vetting scheme has been launched, however if these can be dealt with quickly the issue of illegal immigration in the UK could be improved. It will require a considerable amount of work from both the government and landlords, which means that if it does spread to other areas of the country it will likely do so slowly.
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