The Government plans to introduce measures to ensure that tenants in private rented accommodation are not living in the UK illegally. Ministers cite evidence that a small minority of rogue landlords knowingly target illegal migrants and provide sub-standard accommodation in the knowledge they are in no position to complain about standards.
The Immigration Bill was introduced in the Queen’s Speech and it is estimated almost two million buy-to-let property owners will be burdened with the responsibility for vetting the immigration status of potential tenants- and failure to do so will result in huge fines.
The measures potentially open up a new line of work for the security industry, including the provision for vetting services and enforcement.
Peter French MBE, managing director of SSR Personnel and senior regional vice-president of ASIS, claims it will open opportunities for any organisation involved in vetting people. For instance, large security companies usually have “relatively sophisticated” vetting departments which would be capable of taking on such services.
However, he predicted it will be the enforcement side of the measures which could offer the main potential for the security sector. In more problematic areas, such as multi-occupancy properties, councils could take on some enforcement to combat council tax avoidance and sub-contract that work to security companies.
French said: “Someone has got to go out there and check these landlords, so who’s going to check them? There has got to be an enforcement part so that is the opportunity for the security sector – going out and auditing landlords across the country.”
He believes all landlords should pay a licence fee so they are registered – such a scheme has been launched in Newham to promote responsible landlords – which could go towards funding the enforcement service.
There remains some way to go until these measures are made concrete and it could be the fine print which causes large issues down the line. For instance, when fines are handed out, the responsibility will sit with the landlord rather than the vetting services provider.
“Where you subcontract the vetting, you can’t subcontract the responsibility,” said French. “You, the landlord, have the ultimate responsibility and it doesn’t matter what agreements you have with the supplier, you cannot negate the fact that 100 per cent of the responsibility sits with the landlord.”
The new immigration measures have prompted questions over how private landlords could be expected to police the immigration system following several high-profile failures by the UK Border Agency. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, for instance, struggled to answer questions about how the new immigration rules will work, according to this report in the Daily Telegraph.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said public bodies such as the UK Border Agency would support in making the necessary simple checks to ensure tenants are entitled to be in the country.
He stated: “We are taking action to stop rogue landlords who cash in from housing illegal immigrants. These tough measures will send out a strong signal and help reduce unsustainable immigration.”