A Government proposal to require landlords to evict tenants living in Britain illegally from their properties, without a court order, could cause violence, warns the National Landlords Association (NLA).
The NLA believes that the plans could lead to tenants acting irrationally.
The NLA’s Chief Executive, Richard Lambert, accuses the Government of introducing the proposal suddenly, after the Calais migrant crisis worsened. Ministers have announced a change in the law that will allow landlords to evict illegal immigrants without a court order.
Under the upcoming Immigration Bill 2015, landlords must evict illegal immigrants when they receive a Home Office notice that their tenant does not have the right to rent in the UK. In some cases, landlords will be able to evict their tenants without a court order.
Landlords that do not check the immigration status of tenants could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years, under a new criminal offence that will be included in the bill.
The right to rent scheme is being piloted in the West Midlands and will be rolled out nationwide. The system requires landlords to check evidence of a person’s right to live in the UK by inspecting their passport or biometric residence permit.
Landlord Eviction Plans Could Cause Violence
Lambert warns: “I am slightly concerned that we are breaking the 40-year-old principle that it has to be a court that ends a tenancy – take somebody out of their home – rather than giving that power to the executive. But we do need something that will work in progress… It is a welcome step forward.
“The Home Office expects that the tenant will comply with that. As we know, tenants don’t always comply with a court order, or any order, to leave a property when the tenancy is ended. Normally under a court process, you’d be bringing in a bailiff.
“I do worry in the case of an illegal immigrant you possibly have then a despairing person in a desperate situation. That often leads to people doing very desperate things. Who knows? Barricading themselves in? There is the risk of defending themselves with all the force they can muster. It could put people in potential danger. We need to think through the consequences of the kind of system we are putting in place.”
The Government’s plan is designed to discourage migrants from moving to the UK, according to Home Office minister James Brokenshire.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, joined her French equal, Bernard Cazeneuve, to warn would-be migrants against moving from their country of origin.
The two ministers wrote in an article for the Sunday Telegraph: “Ultimately, the long-term answer to this problem lies in reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa.
“Many see Europe, and particularly Britain, as somewhere that offers the prospect of financial gain. This is not the case – our streets are not paved with gold.”1
Part of the plans to make it harder for illegal migrants to live in Britain is a list of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents, allowing councils to know where to concentrate their enforcement action. The Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, states: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords.”
The Government is due to announce a stricter fit and proper person test for landlords of licensed properties. Rent repayment orders will also be extended to allow local authorities to claim back rent payments from landlords who do not maintain their properties to a high standard.
Lambert has thanked the Government for consulting landlords on some of the changes. However, he is not pleased about the plan to imprison landlords who repeatedly fail to check the immigration status of tenants and who do not evict those living in Britain illegally.
He says: “This is the first we have heard of this very severe penalty. While I can see it is important to crack down on repeat offenders, it is quite surprising that it comes almost out of the blue. You do wonder how much it relates to the Government wanting to be seen to be tough on migration given what is going on in Calais.”1
Clark says the proposals will help landlords by saving them the cost of going to court, if the Home Office serves a legal notice that the tenant does not have the right to live in Britain.
He claims: “What we are doing is cracking down on those rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigrants, exploiting vulnerable people and undermining the immigration system.
“To save them the cost and bureaucracy of having to go to court when the question to be resolved is very clear – whether or not that person is entitled legally to be in this country – the Home Office can serve a legal notice that makes it clear one way or another.”
However, Clark admits the landlord would have to go to court if a tenant refuses to leave after being served a notice based on the Home Office documentation.
The landlord must then seek a ground of possession order from the courts. Clark adds: “What you have done is save a prior court process.”1