Landlords are to become Immigration Bailiffs!
Whatever your politics on the UK immigration debate, surely few could fail to be moved by the conditions so many asylum seekers find themselves in at the moment. You pray your own family never find themselves in such desperate situations that they are willing to risk life and limb for a better future.
It was while I was watching the news reports that I read a proposed update on the Immigration Bill. New plans are set to give landlords the power to become ‘immigration bailiffs’ for the government. They will be required to evict tenants. The need for a court order to remove them, which we currently require, looks set to be waived.
This is going to present some very interesting challenges for us and other lettings agencies.
Are we going to be in a position where, after removing a family from a property, we get sued under the Human Rights Act because of the rights of the children? Or what happens if, for example, the father is deemed an illegal immigrant but he has a child born in England?
I’m no lawyer, but I can see an expensive legal case right around the corner.
I really don’t like the idea that my team of highly trained, degree-qualified estate managers could find themselves in an awful situation that certainly wasn’t part of their career choice. They’re not bailiffs, and they’re not experts on immigration. It feels wholly unfair to be put into that position.
There appears to be no opt out either. If you fail to ‘spot’ an illegal immigrant, landlords will face fines of £5,000 or spend up to five years in prison. If you have a tenant who fails an asylum application you must evict them or face legal action from the government. This threatens to become a lose-lose situation for landlords.
It does seem that ministers are offloading the problem to property agents and this will bring with it more problems. ‘Document discrimination’ is the first. What happens if a tenant can’t produce a passport because authorities are being slow processing a new visa? Are they to be refused a new tenancy or renewal?
Apparently in the pilot area for the new ‘Right to Rent’ scheme in the West Midlands, there has been cases where people with foreign accents have found it difficult to rent a home.
I hope that a new wave of discrimination isn’t inadvertently created in our industry. Sadly, I have genuine concerns that there could be.