U.K.’s Landlords Face Fines for Undocumented Immigrants

U.K. landlords would be fined thousands of pounds if they fail to check the visa status of their tenants to ensure they’re legally in the country, under planned legislation as the government tries to win back voters.

Hurt by local-election losses last week at the hands of the anti-immigration and anti-European Union U.K. Independence Party, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today offered Parliament a package of measures unlikely to provoke discord from their own sides. The National Landlords Association said it welcomed the additional checks, which will affect thousands of property owners, and called for further action.

Local government “must undertake robust, intelligence-led, targeted enforcement,” NLA Chief Executive Officer Richard Lambert said in an e-mailed statement. “Otherwise illegal immigrants who are refused housing by reputable landlords will face homelessness or be pushed straight back into arms of the criminals who deliberately exploit vulnerable people.”

The coalition government has been cutting funding for programs such as housing benefits and aid to families with children as part of an austerity program aimed at reducing the budget deficit. Annual immigration to the U.K. has fallen by a third to about 160,000 a year since the government was elected in 2010, Cameron said in a speech in March.

The London-based NLA said tenant background checks should also include whether the occupant has any county court judgments and possible aliases as well as references from their employer and a previous landlord.

About 136,900 so-called buy-to-let loans were provided to U.K. investors last year alone, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. The mortgages used to buy rental properties rose to 11.5 percent of all home loans in 2012, compared with 9.8 percent a year earlier.

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