New plans will mean landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of any potential tenants - to be certain they have the right to be in the UK. If the landlord fails to make the checks - or turns a blind eye - they could be fined thousands of pounds.
So why is the government doing this? And are they just passing the buck?
LandlordsThe new plans, mentioned briefly in the Queen's speech, and outlined to a host of media sources before the speech, mean that landlords will have to check the passports and visas of prospect tenants - this is expected to specifically apply to those renting out a number of rooms to different people in the same property.
It's not known how they can verify the documents are genuine. Jeremy Hunt was also unable to explain on BBC Radio 4 this morning how it would work in practice.
In addition, the fines employers already face if they employ an illegal migrant will be beefed up substantially.
Is it fair?It essentially makes landlords and employers virtual agents of the UK Border Agency. But is that right?
On the one hand, surely the agency should be operating in such a way that these illegal migrants shouldn't be in the UK - let alone be here for so long that they need long-term accommodation. Why should it be up to landlords, who are busy enough trying to run a commercial business, without taking on extra border control responsibilities?
Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association (NLA), told AOL he welcomed the move, adding that it was best-practice already. He said: "Every landlord should thoroughly reference a tenant prior to offering a tenancy; this is standard best practice which safeguards the landlord's business. Tenant checks should include not only an identity check, as suggested, but also whether the tenant has any County Court Judgments, possible aliases and include references from their employer and a previous landlord. Such checks should highlight any immigration irregularities."
The move could curb the activities of some landlords who exploit illegal migrants by providing sub-standard accommodation on the grounds that they cannot complain. However,Lambert warned that it will only work if properly enforced, adding: "Local authorities must undertake robust, intelligence-led, targeted enforcement, otherwise illegal immigrants who are refused housing by reputable landlords will face homelessness or be pushed straight back into arms of the criminals who deliberately exploit vulnerable people".
Immigration lawThe measures are contained in a new immigration law, which will also include a number of changes which will appeal to the right wing of the Conservative party. These include limiting the benefits European immigrants can claim, charging temporary migrants who use the NHS, and making people live in an area for two years before they qualify for social housing. In addition, when convicted criminals claim the right to stay in the UK because their family is here, this will be weighed against the seriousness of their crime.
There will be those who suspect that this crackdown on immigration is in some way a reaction to the rising popularity of UKIP in the recent council elections.
But what do you think? Are they useful measures? Let us know in the comments.
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