Buy to let landlords who rent homes to people living in the UK illegally could face jail terms following a further anti-immigration crackdown by the Home Office.
But a leading Lancashire property lawyer fears landlords are being increasingly victimised by the government, with legitimate tenants also in the firing line.
Graham Ireland, a partner at WHN Solicitors, is concerned that law-abiding landlords could be forced to raise rents in order to cover rising costs.
The latest clampdown was announced by home secretary Amber Rudd in October. She told the Conservative Party conference that, from December, landlords renting property to people living in the UK illegally would be committing a criminal offence and could go to prison.
The recent hard-line comments follow the government’s mandatory ‘Right to Rent’ checks introduced in February, forcing landlords to check new tenants’ documents to ensure they are in the UK legally. Landlords flouting the ‘Right to Rent’ checks could face fines of £3,000 per tenant.
However, Graham Ireland, believes the government’s tough stance may trigger a sequence of unintended consequences that could hit landlords and tenants alike.
Graham commented: “Our recent experience is that landlords feel they are being victimised by government regulation. While I accept that there are some unscrupulous landlords, the vast majority of them are not. They are simply trying to earn a legitimate living like anyone else.”
Graham continued: “My fear is that the imposition of new rules which increase the cost to landlords of renting will be passed on to tenants in the form of increased rents. The feedback I get is that landlords will not rent at a loss in the same way that any other business would not operate at a loss.”
Ministers agree that the harsh measures could negatively impact law-abiding landlords and tenants. In a press release, they said: “The government wants to support good landlords who provide decent well maintained homes, and avoid further regulation on them. Unnecessary regulation increases costs and red tape for landlords, and can stifle investment. It also pushes up rents and reduces the choice for tenants.”
But the press release added: “A small number of rogue or criminal landlords knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation. We are determined to crack down on these landlords so that they either improve the service they provide or leave the sector.”