Yet another Immigration Bill is currently going through Parliament. This is an opportunity for concerns to be raised before it becomes enshrined in law.
Over the last few months I have described the changes in general terms. It is important to focus on the detail as this will catch many innocent people in the process. For those who have buy to let properties in particular it is vitally important to understand and, if appropriate, oppose the changes through your local MP. The recent debacle about tax credits indicates that change is possible even at the very last minute.
The regulations provide that once the Secretary of State serves a notice on the landlord/landlady, he/she can terminate a tenancy by giving written notice of 28 days. This notice does not require an order for possession and is enforceable “as if it were an order of the High Court.” It appears to remove all security for the tenant and suggests that the belongings of the person can be thrown into the streets, reminiscent of England in the 1940s. What is particularly worrying is that there is no judicial oversight and no discretion for hardship cases. No account appears to be taken of the impact on children, and the operation of s55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act.
There is also confusion in the regulations themselves. They state that a landlord cannot evict for 28 days. But the law creates 2 new criminal offences which carry sentences of 5 years for knowingly renting to a person who is not lawfully in the UK. So although a landlord may be served a notice and give notice for 28 days, they can during this time be charged with a criminal offence.
The other concern is that the law will apply to lodgers. The bedroom tax has resulted in the increase of lodgers often by those with low economic means looking to plug the gap left by the introduction of these measures. The Government has actively encouraged people to take lodgers and many will be unaware of the impact of these changes on them. They could inadvertently face fines in circumstances in which they are already struggling with debt.
There is no judicial oversight whatsoever of these measures and therefore no chance of redress where there are mistakes or cases of hardship which require discretion. Our proud history where justice triumphs and is the envy of the world is dealt a further blow leaving power without accountability.
Lastly the age old issues of discrimination and images of “no blacks or dogs.” The Home office study based on a miniscule sample glosses over the concerns that will be caused by these changes which will inevitably affect the renting of properties to foreign sounding people. It is in a sense stating the blindingly obvious that the black population will suffer the most. A landlord wants the least problematic solution and therefore with all these regulations they can hardly be blamed for looking for the easiest option.
But all of this is surprising. The mood music is that of riding roughshod of the very principles that one made the UK the envy of the world. Over time recourse to the courts and therefore access to justice has been reduced, there has been a rise in making individuals responsible for issues for which they have no training (and are not paid) and as for discrimination who cares????