Immigration is one of the biggest issues in the news – and has been for the past couple of months. Wherever you stand on the situation there’s no way to ignore the fact that the UK is going to be contributing to easing the global refugee crisis by offering safe haven to those who have left war torn countries or states where they were being persecuted. As a result of the huge volumes of people moving at the moment the debate has turned to how to distinguish between a refugee and an economic migrant, with many people insisting that only the former should be ‘allowed in.’ As always, when restrictions are imposed, there will be those who fall outside them and in response to these potential ‘illegals’ the government has said that it’s looking to create a hostile environment for those who are in the UK without the right to be here. One of the ways in which this has manifested itself first of all is the rentals sector.
The Immigration Bill
Under the new rules, which are currently in bill form and progressing through parliament, landlords could be subject to a jail term of up to five years if they rent out their property to an illegal immigrant. The Immigration Bill holds landlords up to a standard that means that if they know someone is an illegal immigrant – or even if they have reasonable grounds to suspect it – then they cannot rent their property out without consequences.
The potential for issues
So, the government is shifting to landlords a responsibility for determining whether or not someone is an illegal immigrant before renting to them. This is troubling a lot of people given that – as you’ll see if you take a glance at our forums – there is a large proportion of landlords out there who generally take the path of least resistance. In practical terms, that means repairs are often ignored, tenants struggle to reach their landlords if something needs to be done in a property and many landlords have not taken the time to familiarise themselves with legal responsibilities such as deposit protection and the need for an annual gas safety check. Now, we’re not saying that all landlords are like this but there are plenty who are, and the fear is that those landlords will simply start refusing anyone who ‘looks’ like an illegal immigrant.
Opposition parties and campaigners have pointed out that the actual effect of the Immigration Bill could be that those from ethnic minorities find it much more difficult to rent – even those who are legally in the country. While there are ways of proving a right to reside, some landlords may not even bother to look into whether this is the case. As we all know, the rentals market in the UK is currently flooded with tenants and so there is plenty of choice. We regularly see tenants rejected outright if they have pets – or even children – with no further investigation – so there is a good chance that this could simply become another one of those obstacles for potential tenants. How this fits with the UK’s anti discrimination laws we don’t know.
When asked about this potential for discrimination, the Home Secretary replied that too-high immigration put pressure on housing and public services and said it was important that it be “properly managed.” Given the lack of control the government has exerted over landlords to date, we don’t hold out hope for ‘proper management’ – just another hurdle for tenants to jump.