Private Landlords as Immigration Officers
Landlords will now be asked to help with the Border Control Agency’s job says David Lawrenson of private rent consultants LettingFocus.com.
The latest government idea has really come out of left field. This is the plan, contained in the Queens Speech, to make landlords responsible for checking their tenants’ immigration status. Landlords will soon have to ask for and check passports and work permits.
Of course, this is what most sensible landlords will be doing anyway, as part of their tenant referencing checks – any sensible landlord would want to know the tenant is who he says he is (hence the ID check) and can legally work (hence the check for work permits for any non-EU applicants).
But would a landlord know a fake work permit or foreign passport if he saw one?
Looking online, there are no really reliable guides on how to do this, which is a thing we first noticed eleven years ago. Around 2002, there was the first really big surge of migrants from the so called “Accession Countries” (mostly former Eastern Bloc states that had recently joined the European Union).
Letting where we do, we were very much in the vanguard of letting to this group of mostly, hard working migrants. Back then, we already knew – from the sheer weight of numbers – that the government’s various projections for the numbers of migrants were likely to be hopelessly wrong. (In the end it was out by a factor of about ten – about ten times as many migrants came to the UK each year than had been predicted). And we also wondered if the passport and work permit documents we were being presented with by our new Lithuanian and Polish clients were genuine.
Today, there is still no real guidance on line or elsewhere.
What Help Will Landlords Get?
And so I wonder, will the government be providing training for the UK’s landlords in how to spot a fake work permit? How will it work in practice? Will the landlords have to pay to access some type of service with the costs being passed on, as ever, onto the tenant? We wait for the civil servants at the CLG and for the government to fill in the detail and give us the answers.
Rogue Landlords – Situation Normal
Of course, the type of rogue “landlord” who is happy to let to someone without first doing any checks at all on them will continue doing just that. If this type of “landlord” gets problems, the solution will be the direct one – a couple of rough lads with baseball bats who will throw the “problem tenants” out.
Some of these rogue “landlords” will have “tenants” who are “illegals” and will often also be involved in providing them with low cost work too, often in related businesses to the “landlord”. Their clients – dependent on their “landlords” for work, to shelter them, to keep their illegal status hidden from the authorities and to give them a roof over their sheds – are hardly likely to report their “benefactors”.
Not only will these “landlords” not do checks on tenants ID, work permits or the rest, but they are hardly likely to apply for licenses either. But I suspect this fact may be lost on the Welsh Assembly and some other local authorities in England who seem to be in a desperate race to move ahead with their own landlord licensing schemes with which the honest landlord will conform and duly pay their fees, whilst the rogues will continue to hide.
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