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Immigration check scheme in UK makes landlords reluctant to take on foreign tenants

Tenants are being charged an extra £100 in administration fees, according to a survey by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) which polled landlords and tenants in the pilot area since the roll-out.

Under the pilot scheme, which is expected to be rolled out across the UK later in the year, landlords are required to carry out checks on new tenants and face action if they are found to be renting to an illegal immigrant.

If a landlord breaches the rules they face a fine of £1,000 per illegal adult occupier and for a second offence that rises to £3,000 per adult.

The survey also indicated that landlords are now more hesitant to offer viewings to anyone needing more time to provide paperwork, meaning migrants are more likely to be turned down.
The research also shows that landlords are discriminating between applicants on the basis of their background and are preparing to turn away tenants because they have a foreign accent. Furthermore, some legitimate tenants who cannot easily identify themselves using a British or European Union passport are finding it harder to secure somewhere to live.
‘This research clearly shows the dilemma that landlords are facing. On the one hand they want to be fair to prospective tenants, but on the other hand, they are fearful of renting a property to an illegal immigrant,’ said Jane Morris, managing director of Property Let By Us.
She gave an example of an American tenant who reported that her British husband could secure viewings for the same properties she had been told were no longer available. 
Morris explained that under the pilot scheme, would-be tenants have to produce evidence from a checklist of documents that they have permission to be in the UK and landlords have to take a copy for their records. 

‘So before dismissing a prospective tenant, it is important that agents and landlords make all the necessary checks. For example, if an agent is taking on the responsibility for checking an occupier’s immigration status, he/she must agree this in writing and must report the findings to the landlord,’ she pointed out.

‘Agents should set out timescales for checks and reports in the agency agreement and report occupiers without the right to rent to the landlord in writing. If the landlord still authorises a tenancy agreement, they will be liable for the penalty,’ she added.

She also pointed out that in the event of a breach, where an occupier is found to be living illegally in a rented property, the agent or landlord will need to establish a statutory excuse to avoid a penalty. ‘A statutory excuse can be maintained if the agent/landlord can prove they have carried out all the necessary checks and notified the Home Office of any breaches,’ said Morris.