In a surprise move, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Tories will introduce a mandatory licencing scheme for private landlords.
In a speech discussing government plans to control immigration, ahead of the Queen's Speech next week, Cameron said:
“For the first time we’ve had landlords checking whether their tenants are here legally. The Liberal Democrats only wanted us to run a pilot on that one. But now we’ve got a majority, we will roll it out nationwide, and we’ll change the rules so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly.
“We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime. And, a bit like ending jobs when visas expire, we’ll consult on cancelling tenancies automatically at the same point.”
There were no other details about licencing, leaving many unanswered questions.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), welcomed the initiative to tackle the problem of criminals acting as private landlords to exploit illegal migrants.
“However, it is essential that councils are given the necessary funding to ensure that they can enforce these powers effectively. This would help drive up standards in the sector and send a powerful message to criminals.
“One of the fundamental reasons that a minority of criminal landlords are able to get away with providing poor living conditions is that councils do not have the resources to make use of their already significant powers.
“We would like to see the Treasury allow councils to keep the proceeds of the fines from prosecutions so that councils have both the powers and finances for enforcement, without going cap in hand to the Treasury.
“We are pleased that the government has given landlords the ability to deal quickly with illegal migrants and hope this deters those that want to stay here illegally.
“We are however a little concerned regarding the Right to Rent scheme. Landlords are happy to help to check that tenants are who they claim to be. However this should not be a way for the Government to pass the buck on to landlords when tacking illegal immigration.
“We also had several questions regarding the scheme at the outset which still have not been answered. We hope, before the scheme is rolled out nationally, that the Government take the time to review how the first phase in the West Midlands has worked and draws on the lessons from that, rather than ploughing ahead regardless.
“The introduction of a new mandatory licensing regime brings up some concern. We are therefore urgently seeking clarification on whether this would be new policy or related to the current licensing schemes.”