09 Aug 23

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been accused of using landlords to do her dirty work for her.

In a response to the government’s sharp increase in fines for landlords and letting agents who let to illegal migrants, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association – Ben Beadle – tells the Daily Telegraph:  “The announcement is little more than a gimmick. There’s no substance behind it. Rather than cracking down on illegal migration, they’re trying to crack down on landlords.

“Rather than doing something directly, you’re relying effectively on a small army of landlords and letting agents to do your dirty work for you. And rather than bring them along with you on the journey, you’re saying that landlords and letting agents have a problem.”  

Beadle also cautioned that the move would “make it more difficult for poorer British nationals to find housing because they are more likely not to have passports or driving licences they can use to prove their citizenship status”.

Earlier this week Braverman’s number two – former housing secretary Robert Jenrick – launched an attack on what he called “unscrupulous landlords”.

He announced that landlords and agents who knowingly let their properties to unauthorised migrants would face penalties of up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier for a first breach, up from £80 and £1,000 respectively.

Repeat breaches could cost them up to £10,000 per lodger, up from £500, and a maximum of £20,000 per occupier, up from £3,000.

It is thought laws to enforce the fines will be enacted early in 2024.

Jenrick said: “Making it harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK is vital to deterring dangerous, unnecessary small boat crossings. Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue. There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.”

Existing Right to Rent legislation requires landlords or their agents in England to check that all tenants who occupy their properties have legal status to live in the UK. 

The Home Office introduced Right to Rent checks with the aim of making it harder for people to live and work in England illegally. Tenancies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not subject to Right to Rent checks.

When carrying out a Right to Rent check, agents must carry out a check on all prospective tenants over the age of 18, even if they are not named on the tenancy by either:

  • Checking an original form of ID (from a list of acceptable identification documents) in the presence of the prospective tenant;
  • or using an approved identity service provider (IDSP) to check ID;
  • or viewing a tenant’s Right to Rent online via the Home Office ‘share code’ system.

In certain cases the check can be carried out at any point in advance of the start of the tenancy. In others, the check needs to be carried out within the 28 days prior to the start of the tenancy.

Landlords are also legally required to make follow-up checks where identification is time-limited, as in the case – for example – of  student visas.

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