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Immigration bill passes House of Commons

14 October 2015

Immigration bill passes House of CommonsWho hasn’t seen the images of thousands of Syrian refugees arrive on Europe’s coasts every day over the last few months or illegal immigrants jumping into lorries at Calais trying to make it through the Eurotunnel to Britain? Home Secretary Theresa May made her concerns about mass immigration clear at the Conservative party conference last week, questioning whether social cohesion is possible in a society struggling to accommodate foreign workers. Indeed, as a whole, immigration affects many areas of a society, but it could potentially affect landlords more than some others in future.

The new ‘Immigration Bill’, which includes a passage on ‘Right to Rent’, passed the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday 13 October) in its first and second hearing . This means that landlords could have to do a lot more background checks on their potential tenants than they already do.

The government plans to introduce mandatory immigration status checks that landlords would have to carry out on their prospective tenants. Failure to comply could mean landlords facing a civil penalty, i.e. a fine or even jail sentence.

The opposition, including Labour Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, who said that ‘landlords are not border or immigration experts’, were strongly against the bill. Theresa May countered landlords would be able to call a new helpline and would receive simple advice that anyone can follow. Consequently, MPs voted to pass the bill during both hearings.

The government has also promised a full review after trialing the scheme in the West Midlands over the last year. In the eleven months since the trial started, a total of seven landlords were fined and eleven illegal immigrants found to be renting properties. Penalties during the scheme saw landlords face the prospect of a fine of up to £3,000, but new proposals to landlords in England could see jail sentences of up to five years. It now moves on to committee stage and will be scrutinised by MPs in detail.

In the days leading up to the hearing, concerns were raised across the board after a survey carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in the trialed areas found that a ‘foreign sounding’ name or accent would deter 27% of landlords from getting involved with those tenants. Their Chief Executive Saira Grant called this an ‘act of self-preservation’ on ITV News to avoid criminalisation.

The Council as well as other prominent figures fear the bill could create a hostile environment where migrants struggle to find accommodation.

Total Landlord Insurance will keep you up to date on any developments concerning the bill on the website and Social Media channels.