The Queen’s speech on 8 May 2013 marked the start of the new parliamentary session and set out the key pieces of legislation that the Government intends to create over the year ahead.
One of the items on the agenda was a new Immigration Bill, which promises to reform immigration law and will include provisions to strengthen enforcement powers and protect public services. The key proposals are to introduce measures designed to stop immigrants accessing services to which they are not entitled.
One such measure will require private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, to ensure that tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally. It is hoped that the new checks will stop rogue landlords making money by renting homes to illegal migrants.
However, it is not yet clear how these provisions will operate in practice. Employers will be familiar with the “right to work” checks that must be undertaken prior to engaging new staff; the questions is, will the Government impose a requirement to undertake similar, “right to occupy” checks upon private landlords?
Another question mark looms over the enforcement measures that will be put in place to police the new system. Employers who deliberately take on illegal workers can face criminal charges, unlimited fines and a prison sentence. What’s more common, however, is that a business inadvertently finds itself in trouble because it failed to carry out the required pre-employment document checks diligently enough. Such employers may be fined up to £10,000 for each illegal worker found in their employment. If a similar system were put in place for tenancy arrangements, it would certainly create a lot of anxiety for landlords.
We will keep a close eye on developments in the law and provide key action points for landlords once the Government’s proposals have been clarified.