British landlords could face jail renting to illegal immigrants

Landlords in Britain that rent out homes to illegal immigrants could face imprisonment, under new rules.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 3, 2015) (REUTERS) – The British government promised to bring forward a law to tighten immigration rules on Monday (August 3), targeting landlords who rent properties to illegal immigrants.

Under a new Immigration Bill, landlords must check whether their potential tenants have the right to live in the United Kingdom – or face severe penalties.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark said that those that are repeat offenders could be fined, or even jailed.

“We have to crack down on those rogue landlords that exploit the immigration system by deliberately renting properties to people who don’t have the right to be in this country. In future, they will have to check whether someone is able to reside in this country and if they willfully flout those rules then it will be a criminal offence,” he said.

The new law will also give landlords the power to evict illegal migrant tenants, without going to court.

“If they find someone that’s not allowed to be in this country then they will be able to evict those people very quickly and without fuss. And they will have a requirement to make sure that the people they do rent to are able to rent the property,” Clark said.

The new announcement came as dramatic images of migrants storming the Channel Tunnel from France prompted Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to ramp up anti-immigration rhetoric and spurred Eurosceptics to amplify calls for Britain to quit the European Union.

The government’s increasingly shrill tone has upset charities, churchmen and left-wing politicians, while anti-EU campaigners have seized on the crisis as proof that Britain is unable to protect its own borders while remaining in the bloc.

On the Immigration Bill, Chris Norris of the National Landlords’ Association said he was concerned about how the new rules might work.

“We broadly welcome what the government has tried to do today. We still have some concerns about the wider right to rent checks and the responsibility that landlords have to take on. But we see this as an acknowledgment by the government that landlords need some help and need some of the powers that we’ve been asking for to make this work,” he said.

The government was essentially passing the responsibility for visa checks onto landlords, he said.

“That still is a genuine concern, yes. As you say we’re looking at an activity that is usually carried out by the state and we are putting that onto private individuals, people who are not necessarily doing this job full-time and do not necessarily know what they are looking for when you are asking them to assess the right of someone right to live in the UK. There are worries, but as I said today, I think, the movements by the government acknowledge some of those concerns and go some way to allaying them,” he said.

Cameron is under growing pressure to cut immigration.

Official data released in May showed net annual migration hit a near record high of 318,000 in 2014, despite the prime minister’s pledges to cut it to less than 100,000, much of it from the EU and fuelled by Britain’s strong economy.

The government has already introduced measures making working illegally a criminal offence and giving authorities the power to seize illegal earnings.