Immigration Bill: Landlords 'must evict' illegal immigrants
Landlords in England will be expected to evict tenants who lose the right to live in the UK under new measures to clamp down on illegal immigration.
They will be able to end tenancies, sometimes without a court order, when asylum requests fail, ministers say.
Landlords will also be required to check a migrant's status in advance of agreeing a lease. Repeat offenders could face up to five years in prison.
But critics have said it may lead to UK citizens being refused accommodation.
'Right to rent'
The proposals - to be included in the upcoming Immigration Bill - come as the British and French governments struggle to deal with a migrant crisis in Calais, where large numbers of people are making nightly bids to cross the Channel to reach the UK.
Under the proposals for landlords in England, the Home Office would issue a notice when an asylum application fails that confirms the tenant no longer has the right to rent property.
Analysis by legal correspondent Clive Coleman
It is currently a criminal offence to remove tenants without a court order. Obtaining that order enables bailiffs to evict tenants. That all takes time. The new measure may cut out court orders, but it is unclear:
- What happens to evicted illegal immigrants? They can only be evicted if the Home Office knows who they are and where they are living.
- How the new law would comply with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act - the right to family and private life - and national and international legislation protecting the rights of children? If the tenant is a father who ceases to be in England legally, but has two children born here, there is bound to be a challenge to the eviction.
- Who pays? Landlords may avoid going to court but will still have to employ bailiffs to evict tenants. That might cost up to £1,000. It is not clear if the landlord or Home Office will pay.
This will trigger a power for landlords to end the tenancy, without a court order in some circumstances.
Landlords will also be required to carry out "right to rent" checks on each tenant's immigration status before allowing them to move in, expanding a pilot that has been running for a year in the west Midlands.
Repeatedly failing to do either would be a new offence carrying maximum penalties of five years' imprisonment or a fine.
A blacklist of "rogue" landlords and letting agents will allow councils to keep track of those who have been convicted of housing offences and ban them from renting out properties if they are repeat offenders.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark acknowledged that cases in which tenants refused to move out would still end up in court but that the process would be quicker because landlords would have official "evidence" to present to the courts of their tenant's status.
"You have saved the landlord having to spend money establishing something that is clear and that the Home Office can provide - which is a clear statement of whether they should be there or not," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Asked whether evicting migrants simply increased the risk of people disappearing altogether, unless immediately detained by the police, Mr Clark said the initiative was part of a "joined-up system to send people home".
Analysis, by Alicia McCarthy
The streets of the UK are not paved with gold. That's the clear message the government wants to send to those tempted to come to Britain illegally.
Ministers say the tightening of the demands on private landlords in England is simply the enactment of a manifesto promise to make them carry out the same checks as employers and that migrants need to know there is no right to work or rent a home if you are in the UK illegally.
It's not clear yet how the scheme will work or what impact it will have other than moving illegal immigrants from where they are living.
And some may suspect the timing of the announcement is a response to the nightly television news pictures showing scores of desperate migrants trying to cross the channel - and to criticism from some that ministers have failed to get a grip on the situation swiftly enough.
For Labour, shadow immigration minister David Hanson said he backed tougher checks but said ministers appeared to be "offloading" the problem on to landlords and it was up to the authorities to decide whether people should be allowed to remain or deported.
Since August 2014, private landlords in five councils - Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Birmingham - have been required to conduct checks to establish new tenants have the right to rent in the UK or face face a penalty of up to £3,000.
Mr Clark said the pilot - introduced as part of the 2014 Immigration Act - had been a success and would be extended across more of the UK, although he could not say how many people had been deported as a direct result.
But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the pilot - which has yet to be officially evaluated - had serious shortcomings.
"We have heard that British people with foreign accents are finding it difficult to get tenancies from some of the, you might say, unscrupulous landlords," its chief executive Habib Rahman told Radio 4's World at One.
And David Smith, from the Residential Landlords Association, said there was evidence of "document discrimination" with some landlords reluctant to rent their properties to anyone who could not produce a valid passport.