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Posted on January 18th 2016 by admin-movingin

Landlords and agents ‘should not face jail if they innocently let to illegal immigrants’

Landlords and agents should not face the prospect of up to five years in prison if, through no fault of their own, they let to a tenant who should not be in this country.

The call is due to come from peers Lord Cathcart and Lord Howard of Rising in the form of an amendment to the Immigration Bill.

They argue that agents and landlords should not face criminal penalties if they are innocently caught out by the same fraudulent papers that got illegal immigrants past border agency officials in the first place.

When Right to Rent is implemented across England from February 1, there will only be civil penalties under the Immigration Act 2014.

However, the Immigration Bill 2015 going through Parliament will bring in criminal sanctions – fines or imprisonment.

The amendment says that the following should be added to the Bill: “A person does not commit an offence … where they are proceeding diligently to evict any adult who is disqualified as a result of their immigration status from occupying the property of which they are a landlord.”

The amendment is expected to be debated this week or next. While it only seems to relate to fast-track evictions of illegal tenants, the peers are expected to present fuller arguments.

The amendment is fully supported by both ARLA and the Residential Landlords Association.

They are concerned that the new Bill, as currently drafted, states that when a landlord or agent is notified by the Home Office that the tenant has no right to rent, the landlord or agent is immediately deemed to have committed a criminal offence.

Yet the Bill also allows 28 days for the illegal tenant to be evicted.

There are also concerns that the landlord or agent could have been caught out by forged documents that enabled the illegal immigrant to get into the country in the first place.

Those same forged papers will have got past immigration officers, who are not threatened with jail.

A significant further concern is that landlords and agents would be criminalised prior to, or even without, any prosecution.

Lord Cathcart is expected to argue to fellow peers that landlords and agents who have done everything they could to check out a tenant’s right to rent, and who then take the required steps within the 28-day eviction period, should not be prosecuted.