Tag Archives: Criminal Landlords

Should Landlords do immigration checks? Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As it stands, this is precisely what the Government is planning to do by introducing an Immigration Bill to Parliament including a civil scheme to penalise leasing accommodation to illegal immigrants. The scheme is intended to come into effect in 2014. Government’s proposals, as set out in the relevant Government consultation document, are summarised below. The scheme ultimately implemented may vary. Should Landlords do immigration checks?

The Government suggests that landlords check tenants’ immigration status, but will recognise the agreed transfer of the duty to a letting agent. Where a landlord has performed checks according to Government guidelines, the landlord will be able to claim a statutory exemption from penalty. Where a property is rented out to a company, the Government proposes that the company is responsible for making checks.

Rechecks might have to be made annually for those with temporary leave. A landlord would be required not to renew a tenancy agreement if a tenant cannot provide documentation at the time of recheck, but would not be required to take possession proceedings. The landlord would also be required to report the suspected illegal migrant to the Home Office.

The Home Office proposes two possible levels of penalty, £1,000 or £3,000 per illegal immigrant, depending on the landlord’s compliance history. In addition to objecting on the basis of having performed the document checks, a landlord would be able to object based on not being liable.

Our bone of contention is the requirement to report tenants whose immigration paperwork expires during the course of the tenancy. If this happens to an employer, assuming the employee has been in employment for less than two years, they can summarily dismiss them without being accused of unfair dismissal. Although the member of staff would have to leave employment that day, there are no risks to the employer. But landlords on the other hand, are subject to housing legislation and cannot summarily evict a tenant, even if they wanted to, for losing the right of abode in the UK.

The government says that Landlords should simply report the tenant to the home office. Much of the Landlords business as we know it, relies on good tenant relations, and asking tenants repeatedly about their immigration status is unlikely to augur well. Also tenants could understandably become aggrieved if the landlord reports them to the home office. They may feel desperate, stop paying rent and even become hostile and take out their frustration on the landlord or the property.

The danger is that landlords would avoid taking tenants with restricted immigration status for fear of repercussions. This is hopeless for prospective tenants who happen to have short visas and hope to renew them and could be unlawful discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or race. It also flies in the face of a number of other government policies, such as a desire to attract overseas students and the best talent for global businesses based in the UK.

Anecdotal reports shows that lots of people confuse issues of immigration status and ethnicity. A BBC report recently demonstrated the blatant discrimination that black applicants can experience. A white applicant for a flat was offered a viewing by an agent where the black tenant was wrongly told that the same flat had been taken. The agent said that they were complying with the landlord’s instructions, but this is unlawful. There are landlords who say that they prefer not to house people from certain ethnicities because of one bad experience. Apart from the social injustice, this attitude just makes bad business sense because the landlord is restricting their pool of applicants and perpetuating their own fixed attitude.

The Government plan to impose these immigration check responsibilities on Landlords will make finding rented property for black and ethnic minority tenants even more difficult. Many landlords have voiced their concerns that they will be turned into the border police, which is not good for community relations.

The government on its part, argues that there is a lot of support for these measures and that it is simply not fair that people who pay nothing into the system should be able to enjoy the benefits of living in the UK. This argument I might highlight, is flawed as many people here illegally work extremely hard in the shadow economy and are helping to regenerate the UK. Measures like these checks, will push them even further underground and into the hands of exploitative criminal landlords.

This article was submitted to Property118 by zone4homes.com


Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

There is already more than enough funding and legislation to police the Private Rented Sector.

The last thing we need is more legislation, what everybody wants is enforcement and word on the street is that we could begin to see it before the end of 2013. Ben-Reeve-Lewis

PRS Hit Squads

The authorities all know who the real criminals are and the only reason the criminals are still in business is because those holding power don’t combine resources, in fact they rarely talk to each other. Until now they have all run scared of “data sharing protocols” but when that’s put to one side expect to see some very big cases of criminal landlords being taken to task.

I have heard that PRS Hit Squads will target known criminal landlords between now and Christmas and are supported “in principle” by the likes of Mark Prisk, Boris Johnson and others who openly admit to not being fans of the licensing model being operated in Newham. I’ve also heard that six figure funding for a trial has been agreed at ministerial level.

These “PRS Hit Squads” as I’ve labelled them will comprise of:-

  • Environmental heath
  • HMO licensing
  • Planning
  • Anti social behaviour teams
  • EDF revenue
  • Building contol
  • UKBA
  • Police

The plan is that they will share intelligence and converge on criminal landlords in a military style operation, focussing on the worst operators first of course. With their combined resources the criminals will not stand a chance. It will be like a man with a pea shooter trying to fend off the SAS 🙂

Beware the Spin Doctors!

My hope is that the PR outcome of the PRS Hit Squad successes will be positive and support the need for the model to be extended nationally. It is a very low cost model and the results should save the tax payer money as well as improving peoples lives (unless you are one of the targeted criminals of course!). The last thing the PRS needs is for the successes to be used as justification for more regulation. The spin doctors will see this as an opportunity to justify schemes such as Newham but this must not be allowed to happen.

Landlords can be victims too

Landlords are also the victims of criminals and I have seen some very sad examples of that. A recent case in the Fens involved a landlord who let his former home to a Gang-master. Unbeknown to him the unregulated Gang-master then allowed 20 immigrant farm workers to live in the property, all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. When the landlord found out he obviously wanted them out ASAP, as did the neighbours of pretty culdesac in which the landlords 4 bad detached property was located but the law stood in the way. Had the landlord been able to go to the authorities, secure in the knowledge they would fight for him, it would have been a Godsend to him. Instead, the authorities are threatening the landlord and not the Gangmaster! Clearly common sense isn’t that common.

Let’s hope the PRS Hit Squads are successful in taking down criminals and then lend a much needed helping hand to landlords who are also targeted by criminals. If common sense prevails we might just see more action and less talk. When all is said and done, more is said than done, but fingers crossed let’s hope that not the case here.

The Highland Fling

Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords reported that landlord registration in Scotland has cost landlords £11.2 million in fees while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. According to the results, since 2006 there have only been 40 rogue landlords identified as operating in Scotland, that’s the number of rejected applications. The cost equates to £400,000 per rogue identified!

Summary

The schemes in Newham and its copycats also show signs of being similar “White Elephants”, therefore I’m pinning my hopes on the PRS Hit Squads taking down as many criminals as possible, proving once and for all that it’s more enforcement not legislation we need. Enforcement not legislation - PRS Hit Squads


Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The alternatives to Landlord Licensing Schemes require joined up thinking, changes to data sharing protocols within local authorities and revised high level directives and strategies which must begin at Government level. 

Perhaps the first question to ask is what is Landlord Licensing all about? Is it really about raising standards or is it more to do with raising funds?Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes

Funding

If society as a whole desires that people should not be subjected to sub standard housing conditions then society as a whole must pay to enforce this (howsoever that might be done) whether the money is raised at a local level or centrally.

It is both unacceptable and wholly undemocratic that landlords should be singled out by Government, Councils and Local Authorities to pay stealth taxes badged as licensing fees on the pretence that the money will be used to fund enforcement related initiatives.

Costs associated with licensing schemes imposed on landlords are funded through increased rents. Neither landlords nor tenants want this, particularly as there is clear evidence (demonstrated in this article) that landlord licensing schemes have proven not to be an effective solution to problems in the Private Rented Sector.

Recycling of Court awarded penalties

The high costs associated with prosecuting criminal landlords is borne by Local Authorities, however, fines and penalties go to the treasury. If these funds were to be redirected to the prosecuting authorities this would assist funding of additional prosecutions and create incentives to bring more criminal landlords to task. Continue reading Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes


Labour plans for a National Register of Private Landlords Landlord News, Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association, Property News

labour partyThe Labour Party policy review paper indicated:

The Party is considering creating a national register of private landlords so that people found guilty of criminal acts could be banned from being landlords, by being struck off the register.

The review said there was a small minority of criminal landlords who deliberately prey on the vulnerable with Councils reporting up to 1,500 serial bad landlords. However this is out of a total 3.6 million households in the UK who live in private rented housing.

Jack Dromey, the shadow housing minister said “The private rented sector has an important role to play in meeting housing need, but too many tenants are in poor and sometimes dangerous homes. That’s why Labour has set out proposals to drive standards up and bad landlords out.”

The review also wanted to stamp out the use of “retaliatory eviction” against tenants who complain about the conditions of their property and chase HMRC estimates of £500 million of tax evasion by private Landlords.

Click Here to for full Labour Party review document

 

Chris Norris, Head of Policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), says:

“The NLA welcomes the Labour Party Policy Review’s focus on ridding the private-rented sector (PRS) of the criminal minority who blight towns and cities throughout the UK. However, we are deeply concerned about the impact of the initiatives discussed on levels of desperately needed investment in private housing. Too often the brunt of regulation intended to combat criminality and bad practice is borne by the professional majority, while a minority of rogue operators continue to evade detection and exploit vulnerable people.

“We look forward to the opportunity to work with politicians on all sides of the debate to identify genuine solutions to the challenges faced by those living and working in the PRS. We believe it is essential that the debate addresses the problems which exist in the housing market, without neglecting the positive role played by private landlords.”

 

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) warns that tenants in England could soon be less well protected than their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, due to lagging rental regulation.

According to ARLA, with 36% of households in England now renting, regulation of the private rental sector (PRS) – or the lack thereof – is an issue that affects more of the population than ever before.

The Scottish Government will announce a review of its strategy for the PRS on 30 May, while the Welsh Government is due to introduce a Housing Bill before the end of this Assembly term, legislating for a compulsory licensing scheme for all letting agents in Wales, as well as a code of practice.

These announcements contrast with the current Westminster Government’s opposition to regulation of the sector. If this opposition continues, tenants in England are still at risk from rogue letting agents and landlords.

Ian Potter, Managing Director, ARLA, said: “The PRS remains an unregulated industry, and in the event of something going wrong consumers still only have limited options. ARLA has been calling for regulation of the sector for a number of years now, and as more and more people rent, rather than own their home, it is vital that legislation in England is at least in line with its neighbours.

“Of course we welcome the Labour Party’s latest policy review and share their ambition to improve standards in the PRS – the case studies the report outlined are a stark reminder of the unacceptable conditions that are thriving in the absence of regulation – but these reforms need to be proportionate. More importantly, what we really need is actual policy not proposals; and it must be policy that is consistent and able to keep step with legislative developments elsewhere in Britain.

“Renting should be a positive experience and tenants should know that not only is their money safe but so is the property they live in. All ARLA members must offer a redress service and client money protection to help protect tenants if something goes wrong.”

 


Immigration Bill – Landlords could be fined Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

queenA new immigration bill that includes landlords responsibilities to check the status of tenants rights to reside or face large fines was announced today in the Queens speech.

“My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.”

Downing Street briefings on the contents of the immigration bill are still very low on any actual detailed measures. The much publicised new duty on private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants won’t make any difference to EU citizens as they already have the right to live in Britain as do Britons in any other EU country.

The proposal may not however be workable without a register of private landlords and a compulsory scheme of residence permits or migrant ID cards.  The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, could not explain how it would work and confirmed at this stage it was only about “announcing areas we are going to tackle” and government will provide further details only “when the time is right”.

However the vast majority of Landlords already carry out their own referencing which includes ID checks, voters role checks and employers reference where there is already a legal responsibility not to employ illegal immigrants. Therefore any new measures will likely affect only the few that don’t carry out checks already, or unscrupulous criminal Landlords.

 


Task force targets criminal ‘beds in sheds’ landlords Buy to Let News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

Beds in sheds landlords are the target of a new government campaign to crack down on shoddy housing.

Housing minister Grant Shapps is spearheading the battle against the spread of ‘suburban shanty towns’ by injecting £1.8 million into a fighting fund for nine councils. Continue reading Task force targets criminal ‘beds in sheds’ landlords


Taskforce set to tackle beds in sheds scandal Cautionary Tales, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

Beds in sheds landlords face a crackdown by a special government taskforce aimed at closing down criminal landlords and tracking down illegal immigrants.

Housing minister Grant Shapps and immigration minister Damian Green have held the first in a series of cross-Whitehall summits with police, the UK Border Agency and local councils to set up the task force. Continue reading Taskforce set to tackle beds in sheds scandal


Property118 Landlords Newsletter – Issue 97 Newsletter

With new legislation being introduced over the next few weeks we felt it was important to feature related articles in this edition to assist our landlord readers with the coming changes. Additionally, Mark Alexander shares an onion based  refurb tip and adds an amusing video link to his Landlord’s Log.

Continue reading Property118 Landlords Newsletter – Issue 97


Tenants call for tougher action against criminal landlords Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Latest Articles, Property Market News

Tenants are calling for tighter action against criminal landlords who badly manage their homes or charge rip-off fees.

The protest group was formed after several members had bad experiences with buy to let landlords who allegedly trampled their housing rights.

Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group (EPTAG) is campaigning for the city council to toughen up on enforcing housing law against bad landlords, who they say keep hold of deposits without good reason, fail to deal with repairs and illegally evict tenants. Continue reading Tenants call for tougher action against criminal landlords


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