phone icon020 8889 8300

Landlords face £3,000 fines for renting to illegal immigrants

Landlords who fail to check that their tenants are not illegal immigrants face being fined up to £3,000 under plans unveiled today.

Ministers want to make it more difficult for people without permission to stay in the UK to carry on with their lives.

But landlords warn they are not ‘immigration experts’ and cannot be expected to do the work of border police.

The move comes as a new report reveals the impact of immigration on different parts of the country.

The Home Office study shows half of people in England and Wales live in an area hit by high levels of migration from 2001-11.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: ‘If we do not implement the proper controls, communities can be damaged, resources will be stretched and the benefits that immigration can bring are lost or forgotten.’

Under new reforms all private landlords will have to carry out checks on the migration status of every tenant before renting out a room or house.

First time offenders will be fined £1,000 per illegal immigrant in their property.

But those sent an ‘advisory letter’ or warning about failing to make proper checks within the last three years will be forced to pay £3,000 per tenant.

The rules could also be extended to cover families who take in lodgers, although the fines would be between £80 and £5000 per illegal immigrant.

Mr Harper said: ‘The Government is determined to build a fairer system and to address the public’s concern about immigration. ‘

The proposals, set out in a consultation today, form part of the Immigration Bill which will be introduced later this year to ‘tighten immigration law, strengthen our enforcement powers and clamp down on those from overseas who try to abuse our public services’, Mr Harper added.

Controversially landlords will not have to contact the Home Office if they suspect someone is in the UK illegally, but can do so voluntarily if they want to.

When the idea was floated in the Queen’s Speech, Labour’s housing spokesman Jack Dromey said: ‘Tackling illegal immigration must not take us back to the days when my Irish father was turned away from boarding houses displaying “no dogs, no Irish” signs.’

But the guidance published today states: ‘Landlords must make checks on a non-discriminatory basis, i.e. they should not make any assumptions about a person’s migration status based on their ethnicity, name, accent, etc.’

The rules will not apply to social housing rented to tenants nominated by local councils. Homeless hostels, university halls of residences, boarding schools and children’s homes will also be exempt.

The checks landlords will have to make are the same as those employers have to make before hiring staff, but there are fears it will create increased paperwork for part-time landlords.

Would-be tenants will have to produce evidence from a checklist of documents that they have permission to be in the UK, and landlords will have to take a copy for their records.

Valid documents include a British passport, or a combination of birth certificate, national insurance number and driving licence, naturalisation certificate or right of abode certificate.

Landlords will have to check the papers of all adults who will be living in the property.

‘If a person cannot produce satisfactory evidence, the landlord should not rent accommodation to them,’ the Home Office consultation said.

The Home Office report found asylum seekers and refugee families are ‘likely to have the highest impact on services’.

The biggest impacts of immigration have been felt in market towns and rural areas least used to an influx of people.

Urban areas, particularly in London boroughs are most likely to have seen high levels of immigration up to 2011.

Ministers have also foreigners coming to Britain will have to pay at least £200 to access free hospital care and pay a charge every time they visit a GP.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants only permanent British residents to qualify for anything other than emergency care free of charge.

Mr Harper added: ‘By reducing access to free NHS care and rented accommodation for illegal migrants, we will make it more difficult for them to stay in the country, leading to more returns and removals.

‘This Bill is the next step in the radical reform of the immigration system which has led to a reduction in net migration – now at its lowest level for a decade.’

However the National Landlords Association also voiced concern. ‘If this is to work, it is vital that the system is simple, straightforward and easy for landlords to use and understand,’ a spokesman said.

‘It makes sense to base the requirements on the established system used by employers to verify that individuals have the right to work in the UK, not least because there is a clear acknowledgement that employers, like landlords, are not immigration experts.

‘They can only be expected to carry out reasonable checks that someone is who they say they are, and that they have the documentation to prove they have the right to be here.’