New checks to prevent undocumented immigrants from renting homes risk come into force in parts of the West Midlands today. Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords are required to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants.
This is an awful policy that will cost renters and benefit no one:
- With no government funding for this, added administration costs may simply be passed on to renters through extra letting agent fees or higher rents.
- Far from preventing undocumented immigrants from finding a home, the policy will see already vulnerable tenants forced into illegal tenancies and poor housing conditions.
- The checks also put more than 1m families at risk of being discriminated against by landlords and letting agents.
- It will exacerbate problems already faced by many international workers and students with paperwork complications, especially in flatshare situations. This could also have the unintended effect of discrimination in choosing housemates for flatshares
- This in no way targets rogue landlords as the Home Office claims, but targets both migrants and undocumented UK citizens while increasing the xenophobia that is already on the rise and reducing community cohesion.
While discrimination is illegal, some landlords could refuse to let properties to people with a non-British ethnic background, whether they are immigrants or not. If a tenant requires a check with the Home Office that can take 2 days to complete, lettings agents are not going to choose them if there are other acceptable tenants with a UK passport also wanting the property.
Generation Rent and 17 other organisations, including the Green Party, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and PricedOut, signed an open letter which was published in today's Daily Telegraph.
The policy is so ridiculous, there are 38 MPs with surnames of a foreign origin who could be turned away by unscrupulous landlords if they tried to rent a home – including 16 who voted in favour of the checks.
According to the 2011 census, 1,087,340 private renter households in England and Wales have a household reference person (head of household) with a non-British or Irish ethnic background.
In the West Midlands areas of Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton, where the policy is being trialled for six months, there are 47,541 private renter breadwinners with a non-British or Irish ethnic background who could find themselves struggling to find a home if the policy backfires.
The census also records that 1,625,720 people living in private rented housing have no passport, so could lose access to housing if they are unable to satisfy prospective landlords that they are in the country with proper identification.
Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, has tabled an Early Day Motion to protest this policy. The motion is an opportunity for MPs to register their concern about these measures - please ask your MP to sign it.