- North Easterners gloomiest about house prices
- Scottish house prices resilient in face of tax disruption
- UK landlords warned that incomplete inventories costing Britain’s tenants dearly
- Number of UK property millionaires tops 1/2 million
- Landlords could start to raise rents after budget cut to their tax benefits
- Buy to let tax break removed for wealthy landlords, housing shares fall!
Landlords are now required to check immigration status of tenants in West Midlands
Private landlords across Birmingham and the Black Country will face fines of up to £3,000 from December if they fail to check on the immigration status of their new tenants, the Home Office has announced.
The introduction of the first phase of the "right to rent" scheme is part of a drive to "create a hostile environment" for illegal migrants in Britain and to deny them access to public services they are not entitled to.
An official code of practice published alongside the announcement suggests that the immigration status of everyone who is to occupy a new tenancy should be checked to avoid accusations of discrimination. Only those well known to the landlord, such as immediate family members, will be exempt.
The Home Office promises a landlord-checking service will respond within two working days to inquiries to confirm the status of those who have outstanding immigration applications or appeals.
The introduction of the compulsory landlord immigration checks was phased in on the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, and a decision on whether to cancel the extension of the scheme throughout Britain will have to be taken after the general election in May. The Home Office says it expects to continue with the phased introduction of the checks across the UK next year.
The first phase will see landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton required to request evidence of a person's identity and citizenship, such as a passport or a biometric residence permit. Copies of the documents will have to be taken and kept for 12 months after the tenancy has ended. Under-18s will be exempted from the checks.
Student accommodation where tenants have been nominated directly by colleges, local authority housing, hostels and refuges will be exempted from the checks either because it would duplicate existing immigration checks or could undermine protection of vulnerable groups.
The Home Office says the West Midlands was chosen for the first phase of the roll-out of the scheme because it is an area with a diverse housing stock and its population size mitigates the risk of displacing tenants to other areas.
The measure is part of a package in the 2014 Immigration Act, which also introduces powers to revoke the driving licences of illegal migrants, places a stronger duty on registrars to report sham marriages and streamlines the recovery of fines levied on companies for employing illegal migrants.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said: "The right to rent checks will be quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here. They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out substandard, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.
"Landlords in the West Midlands will have all the advice and support they need in advance of the checks going live on 1 December."
The Landlords Association has strongly opposed the introduction of the checks, arguing that the UK Border Agency should be carrying them out and pointing out that most private landlords are individuals with only one or two properties.