The first phase of the Government’s controversial Immigration Act is due to be trialled in parts of the West Midlands from this December. Landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton will be the first to enforce the new requirements.
A Home Office spokesperson said that the West Midlands was chosen as the trial area for the scheme due to its large population size and diversity.
The Immigration Act 2014
The Immigration Act 2014 is designed to stamp out and deprive illegal migrants from the UK and deprive them of any services that they are not entitled to. Under the Act, landlords are permitted to check the immigration status of all new or potential tenants. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to £3,000.
Code of Practice
Amidst an angry response from landlords, the Home Office issued an official code of practice, in an attempt to ensure that there is no discrimination when conducting checks. All new tenants should be subject to eligibility checks, apart from landlords’ immediate family members or tenants under the age of 18.
Immigration Checks Launch in West Midlands
Landlords will be responsible for checking evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, in order to comply with the new legislation. Permitted documents that can be used to prove eligibility to reside in the UK include passports or biometric residence permits. Documentation must be copied by the landlord and kept for a period of 12 months after the tenancy agreement has ended.
Despite opposition from landlords and leading industry organisations, the Government looks set to continue with their plan to roll out the scheme across the UK from next year. Landlords believe that they are effectively being asked to take on the roll of the UK Border Agency, something that they feel is grossly unfair.
There is also scepticism on the Home Offices’ promise that a landlord checking service will respond to status inquiries within two working days, for tenants who have outstanding immigration applications.
Student tenants that have been directly nominated by local authorities, colleges or hostels are exempt from new immigration status checks. This is due to the fact that additional checks would duplicate existing research.
The Immigration Act 2014 and its attributed responsibilities are part of the coalition Government’s crackdown on immigration. More measures included in the crackdown include revoking driving licenses, reporting sham marriages and harsher fines for companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, defended the introduction of the bill, stating: “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.” He also says that the new rules “will act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.”
Brokenshire also promises: “Landlords in the West Midlands will have all the advice and support they need in advance of the checks going live on 1st December.”