Landlords to Become Immigration Police?

The Government has announced a new bill which, if approved, would force landlords to check whether tenants have the ‘right to rent’.  Under the proposed rules a landlord will be required to check the migrant status of a tenant to ensure they are not in the country illegally.  This check will have to be carried out prior to the start of the tenancy.  Further, if a migrant were to lose a request to live in the UK, a landlord will have to end the tenancy.

Landlords could be blacklisted for failure to comply.  They could also face a fine or up to five years in prison under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
It is currently a criminal offence to evict a tenant without a court order, but this new bill suggests that in certain circumstances a landlord may be able to evict a tenant without one.

The Government argues that the intention of the bill is to crack down on rogue landlords and protect vulnerable migrants.  However this proposal does raise the following questions:
·         Forcing an illegal immigrant / asylum seeker and their family onto the street may be a potential conflict with article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the right to a family and private life).

 
·         What is to happen to evicted illegal immigrants / asylum seekers once they are evicted? Where will they go?  And how will they be tracked? 

·         Is the Government or the landlord to cover the cost of eviction?  

·         The crisis at Calais is an ever growing concern that is yet to be resolved.  Some may consider that the proposed bill is an attempt by the Government to turn landlords into immigration police, a task for which landlords may argue they are wholly unsuited.
Finding a balance between the complex issues relating to immigration controls and a desire to tackle rogue landlords is an unenviable task but seeking to intertwine the two issues in such a way appears to raise more problems that it seeks to resolve.  Whether the Government will continue down this route as the crisis evolves remains to be seen.   
By Clare Greig, Chartered Legal Executive