Questions raised over landlord immigration checks policy in Queen’s Speech

12:58 08 May 2013

Private landlords across the capital will have to check the immigration status of their tenants, under legislation proposed in today’s Queen Speech.

Hundreds of thousands of households live in privately rented accomodation in London.

The move, part of a string measures aimed at tackling illegal immigration, has been seen by some as a “distraction” from real housing issues.

The London Assembly’s Labour group housing spokesperson, Tom Copley, said: “Of course it’s important to make sure that people who are here illegally are found, but it looks like the government are trying to distract people from the real problem.”

“There is a housing crisis for all tenures in London, with poor conditions in the private rented sector where people are charged rip-off rents.”

He added: “I’m puzzled as to how this new immigration check law could be implemented, at the moment landlords and letting agents have no formal relationship with government.

“There is no national register of landlords. Many landlords routinely flout the few existing requirements placed on them – about the safety of their property or the need to pay tax on their income from renting.”

“Why are [the government] prioritising this and not taking steps to make conditions better for the 800,000 households who privately rent in London?” Mr Copley said.

But the National Landlords Association (NLA) welcomed the proposal, even though they stressed it was already practised by reputable landlords.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA said: “Every landlord should thoroughly reference a tenant prior to offering a tenancy; this is standard best practice which safeguards the landlord’s business.

“Tenant checks should include not only an identity check, as suggested, but also whether the tenant has any County Court Judgments, possible aliases and include references from their employer and a previous landlord. Such checks should highlight any immigration irregularities.”

He also called for local authorities to undertake “robust, intelligence-led, targeted enforcement” to prevent illegal immigrants who are refused housing being pushed into a life of crime.