MPs have blasted the Tory coalition government’s proposal to force landlords to do immigration checks on their tenants, warning that it will lead to a ‘bonanza for unscrupulous landlords’.
The committee also warns that landlords will use the new power contained in the Immigration Bill to discriminate against all immigrants; furthermore, it will give them the power to hold ‘to ransom’ tenants that they believe to be ‘illegal’.
In its report, the Commons Home Affairs Committee states: ‘A further measure in the Bill concerns proposals to create a new requirement on landlords to conduct immigration checks on tenants, with penalties for those who provide rented accommodation to illegal non-EEA (European Economic Area) migrants.’
The committee of MPs warns: ‘The proposed new housing measures in the Immigration Bill must not produce a bonanza for unscrupulous landlords who already operate outside the law, driving more people into the twilight world of beds-in-sheds and overcrowded houses in multiple occupation.
‘The Committee is concerned about the implications of this proposal on millions of private landlords across the county.
‘This additional regulatory burden, in effect requiring them to carry out immigration checks on behalf of the Home Office, is challenging.
‘There are over 404 legitimate European identity documents alone on which landlords will have to base their decision.
‘There is a possibility that landlords will discriminate against all immigrants regardless of their status rather than take the risk of housing a person without right to remain.
‘There is also a possibility that unscrupulous landlords will hold tenants, who are suspected of being an illegal immigrant, to ransom.’
Meanwhile, landlords are preparing mass ‘pre-emptive evictions’ of tenants.
A private sector landlord with more than 700 homes says the introduction of Universal Credit could put his business at risk.
Kevin Green, based in Carmarthenshire in Wales, fears tenants will fall behind on their rent when the new system of paying benefits is introduced.
The notorious Universal Credit system involves rolling six benefits into one payment, paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts.
It is then up to the claimant to decide whether to eat, heat, or face eviction as paying for food, heating and rent will be impossible under the new system.
Most of the 762 properties Green lets out are in or near Llanelli. Around 60% of his tenants receive benefits, he says.
Millionaire Green said: ‘It’s going to lead to huge arrears. It could lead to us going bust at the end of the day and not providing homes for less fortunate people as well.’
There are fears that some landlords will decide that the best policy is to evict tenants who are currently on housing benefit, before it is abolished.