A new Immigration Bill has been published, making it a criminal offence for landlords and letting agents to breach Right to Rent rules.
A property lawyer has described the Bill as “hateful bilge”.
The new Bill is an extension of the Immigration Act 2014, which made it a civil offence if landlords and agents failed to conduct checks on the immigration status of tenants. The regime was part of the pilot Right to Rent scheme in the West Midlands, which began in December 2014. The Government has still not analysed the trial.
The 2015 Bill, due for a second reading on 13th October, makes it a criminal offence to allow a private rental sector property to be occupied “by an adult who is disqualified as a result of their immigration status from occupying premises under a residential tenancy agreement.”1
Landlords and Agents Must Evict Illegal Immigrant Tenants Within 28 Days
The landlord or agent will also be committing an offence if they know or have reason to know that the tenant does not have a right to rent in the UK, for example, because the Secretary of State has served a notice on the landlord or agent, stating that the property is occupied by an illegal immigrant.
The maximum penalty for landlords and agents is five years imprisonment.
The Bill also includes new rules on eviction.
When the Secretary of State serves a notice saying that the home is occupied by someone with no right to live there, the landlord or agent can serve the tenant a notice giving them 28 days to leave. This notice has the enforceable status of one issued by the High Court.
It is not clear what would happen if a tenant given 28 days notice to leave vanishes without a trace.
The Scottish Government has criticised the new Bill, despite it not applying to Scotland.
Scottish Social Justice Secretary, Alex Neil, says it will exacerbate the current immigrant crisis and “increase levels of homelessness and discriminate against migrants rather than reduce immigration”.
He also hit out at Westminster, saying it rushed through the legislation: “I am disappointed to see the inhumane measures set out in the Immigration Bill and I am deeply concerned that if approved, they will encourage people to discriminate against this vulnerable group.
“These harsh restrictions around rent and evictions would make it even tougher for migrants to access housing.
“Where they have accommodation, they may be too frightened to keep in contact with the Home Office and authorities if they believe there is a threat of eviction.
“The UK Government’s approach, coinciding with its delayed response to the worst humanitarian crisis facing Europe since the Second World War, shows an unbelievable lack of compassion and understanding of people’s basic rights.
“We will do all we can to stand against the proposals in the Bill.”1
Lawyers have also opposed the Bill.
On the Nearly Legal blog, written by a barrister, some of the measures included are called “truly remarkable”2. The blog questions what will happen if the Secretary of State serves an erroneous notice.