Immigrants living in Britain illegally will face abrupt eviction from rental properties under new laws designed to make Britain a tougher place to live in, the government will announce as it redoubles its response to the Calais migrant crisis.
In a dramatic illustration of the warning directed at migrants, by the home secretary, Theresa May, that Britain’s “streets are not paved with gold”, the government will change the law to allow landlords to evict such immigrants without a court order.
Rogue landlords who fail to check the immigration status of tenants could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years under a new criminal offence to be included in a new immigration bill.
Greg Clark, the communities secretary, will also announce that the legislation will create a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents to allow councils to know where to concentrate their enforcement action. “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords,” said Clark.
The announcement by Clark, who will also announce new measures to prevent rogue landlords renting out sub-standard properties, comes as May and foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, prepare to take it turns chairing meetings of the government’s emergency Cobra committee in response to the Calais crisis.
David Cameron, who remains in Britain this week on the first stage of his summer holiday, has said that the government will leave no stone unturned as it responds to what he described as the “swarm of people” from Calais. A new fence to protect the entrance to the Channel tunnel on the French side will be completed on Friday.
The government was accused of acting in a “morally reprehensible” way after the Home Office confirmed it was planning to strip families of the automatic right to benefits if their asylum applications were rejected.
The Refugee Council expressed “grave concerns” as the Home Office minister James Brokenshire defended plans to remove automatic benefits from families who did not win asylum as a way of signalling that the UK was not “a land of milk and honey”.
The move is part of a government initiative to discourage migrants from leaving their countries of origin in the first place by showing that Britain is a cold place for those whose asylum applications are rejected. The home secretary joined forces with her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, to send a signal to would-be migrants that they will not necessarily face a warm welcome.
In a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph, the two ministers warned the world is facing a global migration crisis as they pledged to offer refuge to those fleeing conflict or persecution. But they said it is important to break the link between “crossing the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in Europe”.
May and Cazeneuve wrote: “Ultimately, the long-term answer to this problem lies in reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa. Many see Europe, and particularly Britain, as somewhere that offers the prospect of financial gain. This is not the case – our streets are not paved with gold.”
Clark will intensify these warnings when he announces plans to make it easier to evict illegal immigrants from their homes. Under the forthcoming immigration bill, landlords will be expected to evict illegal immigrants soon after receiving a Home Office notice that their tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK. In some circumstances landlords will be able to act without a court order.
A scheme in which landlords check the immigration status of tenants, which is currently being piloted in the West Midlands, will be extended across the country. Under the Right to Rent scheme, landlords will be obliged to see evidence of a person’s right to remain in the UK by examining their passport or biometric residence permit.
A new criminal offence will target unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who fail repeatedly to carry out the “Right to Rent” checks or fail to remove illegal immigrants from their properties. They could be fined, jailed for up to five years or face further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The government will also announce a new and tougher fit and proper person test for landlords of properties that have to be licensed to ensure they are safe for tenants, extending rent repayment orders to allow local authorities to claim back rent payments from landlords who abuse the housing benefit system by failing to maintain their property to a good standard and allowing councils to crack down on rogue landlords who rent out unsafe accommodation by allowing the sharing of tenancy deposit protection.
Clark said: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration – exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system. In future, landlords will be required to ensure that the people they rent their properties to are legally entitled to be in the country. We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties.”
Nicholas Watt, Tuesday 4 August 2015, www.theguardian.com
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