Government plans to force landlords to check the immigration status of tenants have been criticised by homeless charity Crisis over concerns it could prevent the vulnerably housed from finding a home.
A pilot scheme, due to start in the West Midlands from December 1, will require landlords to check renters’ documents to prove their immigration status as part of the new Immigration Act.
However, Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, has warned the policy could make life even more difficult for homeless people who may have lost their documents.
He said: “It’s hard enough for homeless people to find a place to live and we are concerned that asking them to prove their immigration status to landlords could make matters worse.”
Documents often get lost or stolen while people are living on the streets or moving from place to place and that replacements can be expensive, he said.
Downie added: “In today’s high pressured rental market, landlords are unlikely to wait for a tenant to produce the required documents, choosing instead to rent to someone who can immediately provide the evidence.”
Minister for security and immigration James Brokenshire said the Act aims to ‘reform and streamline’ the immigration system as well as tackle illegal immigration.
He said: “When these provisions come into force, landlords will be prohibited from letting residential accommodation to people who have been disqualified by virtue of their immigration status.”
The new measure will be rolled out across the country in phases with an evaluation of its success carried out by a panel that includes landlords, letting agents and housing and homeless charities.
Hostels and emergency shelters are exempt from the policy.
When the Big Issue online journalist trainees interviewed three members of the public in Hackney, East London, the policy had support due to concerns over jobs and housing.