It seems that the government is not just rolling out the Right to Rent further but is also to add more powers and penalties to the system.
They have today announced two things:
- Landlords will be able to evict illegal immigrants without recourse to the Courts;
- Landlords and agent who persistently let to illegal immigrants will face prosecution with penalties of up to 5 years in prison.
To some extent the first point is useful. There was a concern as to how landlords would deal with a situation where an illegal immigrant had been removed from a property by the home office but had then returned. Their tenancy would continue but the situation would not be wholly satisfactory. However, this is not necessarily as great as it seems. First there is the risk that some landlords will overuse this to justify eviction of anyone they dislike. In addition, there is already substantial confusion over the issue of checking documents of tenants to validate their status. There is the risk that people with unusual documents will be evicted by landlords who do not want to take the risk. Finally, what is a landlord with joint tenants to do. If one is an illegal immigrant then presumably the power to evict without Court order is applicable to the tenant as a whole, in other words as against all the joint tenants, even of the others are here legally. If it is not then removal of one person will leave a landlord with other tenants who inevitably will then be unable to afford the rent.
Given the existing confusion over Right to Rent checks and documents the addition of a new criminal penalty seems premature. The government has not presented any evidence that landlords are directly involved in housing people they know to be illegal immigrants. There will now be concerns that landlords and agents will be prosecuted as much for not being able to operate the highly complex system as for wilfully ignoring it.