Landlords who rent properties to illegal immigrants could face up to five years in prison under a crackdown announced by the Government this week.
The warning comes as part of a drive to make it harder for migrants to live in the UK when they have no right to be in the country.
Landlords who house immigrants in unsafe and overcrowded properties are also being targeted, while a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents who are repeat offenders is also being created.
Under a law passed last year, landlords are required to check the residency status of tenants before offering them an agreement.
If they fail to do so, they face a civil penalty of up to £3,000 a night per adult resident. After first being introduced in the West Midlands, the scheme will now be extended throughout England.
A criminal offence for landlords and agents who do not carry out the “right to rent” test or remove illegal immigrants will be included in the Immigration Bill which will be debated in Parliament this autumn.
Repeat offenders could be fined, jailed for five years and have rent payments confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The new law, which will apply in England only, will enable landlords to evict illegal immigrants more quickly. Tenancies could be ended immediately when a person’s leave to remain in the country expires – in some cases without a court order.
Greg Clark, the Communities Secretary, told The Independent: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration – exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system.”
However, the National Landlords Association has warned previously that immigration checks by landlords would drive vulnerable foreigners into the arms of an “underclass of rogue operators”.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “If landlords are to be asked to take on the responsibility of policing access to rented homes they must be able to end tenancies swiftly and without undue costs.
“This is the absolute minimum necessary to enable landlords to carry out this new duty and is a welcomed move.
“However, for decades the only authority able to legally end a tenancy has been the Courts, and the ability for landlords to serve notice on illegal immigrants is just the first step in the possessions process.
“Tenants, facing eviction and potential deportation, are likely to be unpredictable and the NLA is worried that landlords may be unprepared to balance the requirement to meet their new legal obligations with the practical matter of ending a tenancy in what could be stressful and possibly confrontational circumstances.”
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