New measures announced in today’s (8 May 2013) Queen’s Speech will help tackle illegal immigration and ensure those living in the private rented sector have leave to remain in this country.
First set out by the Prime Minister in March, new legislation will stop rogue landlords cashing in from renting homes to illegal migrants; and new rules will ensure fair play in taxpayer-funded social housing.
Welcoming the proposals, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it was right that action was taken to tackle rogue landlords who unscrupulously target and exploit migrants, and to make sure local people are prioritised for social housing, reducing the number of people who are living in this country illegally. These measures will help tackle the ‘pull’ factors which have lead to unsustainable immigration.
But Mr Pickles was also clear that in making these changes, the government will avoid burdening the private rented sector with excessive red tape and will not adversely affect UK nationals looking to rent.
Ministers want to tackle the widespread perception that the way social housing is allocated is unfair and favours foreign migrants over local people and the armed forces.
One in 6 of all existing social housing tenants in London are now foreign nationals, and across England, almost 1 in 10 of all new social housing tenancies are given to foreign nationals.
So new rules will ensure that councils give priority to local people when allocating their social housing. Ministers will introduce new statutory guidance for councils, requiring them to amend their allocation policies to ensure only those with a well-established local residency and local connections will go on the waiting lists and qualify for a taxpayer-funded social home.
Councils will be required to make exceptions to support members of the armed forces who apply for housing, who may not have established local residency due to the nature of their work.
At the same time minsters want to ensure tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally. The government is already working with councils to tackle rogue landlords who exploit immigrants by housing them in ‘beds in sheds’.
Many private landlords already make checks on tenants’ identity and credit status, making it difficult for illegal migrants to rent properties from them. But not all landlords do that, and a small minority of rogue landlords knowingly target illegal migrants who are not in a position to complain about sub-standard accommodation.
The Immigration Bill, introduced in the Queen’s Speech today, would require future private landlords to make simple checks on new tenants to make sure that they are entitled to be in this country. The government will ensure that UK nationals are not adversely affected and avoid red tape on honest landlords in the private rented sector.
The Department for Communities and Local Government will consult on the proposals, which will be straightforward, quick and inexpensive for law-abiding landlords and tenants to comply with. Action could be targeted at particular high-risk sectors, such as houses in multiple occupation.
Mr Pickles said landlords could play an important role in making it harder for illegal migrants to live here, and would receive support from public bodies such as the UK Border Agency to make the necessary checks. The new checks would complement the government’s ongoing work on ‘beds in sheds’.
Eric Pickles said:
The public don’t like the way that taxpayer-subsidised social housing is allocated, when foreign migrants can benefit over local people and members of the armed forces. This perception of unfainess undermines community cohesion and fuels further unsustainable immigration.
Confusion around equality rules and European laws have led some to believe that councils cannot prioritise local people when allocating their taxpayer-funded social homes. This is wrong, and I want to restore a sense of fair play to social housing.
It’s time to back those who work hard and do the right thing, and prioritise social housing for those people who deserve it the most.
At the same time we are taking action to stop rogue landlords who cash in from housing illegal immigrants. These tough measures will send out a strong signal and help reduce unsustainable immigration.
Strengthening the rules on social housing
Migrants from the European Economic Area are eligible for social housing if they are working, self-sufficient or have permanent residence in the UK - after 5 years. Other foreign nationals are not eligible unless they have been granted humanitarian protections or have obtained settled status.
The guidance, to be published for consultation shortly, will ensure councils require people to have lived in the area for at least 2 years. Only those who passed this test would be accepted onto the waiting list in the local area - and then would be considered for social housing. It will also encourage them to set other local rules for testing a resident’s connection to the area. This could include:
- having attended the local school
- having family living in the local area
The guidance will reinforce powers given to councils through the 2011 Localism Act, which gives them greater freedoms to manage their own waiting lists and to decide who should qualify for social homes in their area.
One in 6 of all existing social housing tenants in London are now foreigners (non-British/non-Irish, data for 2009 to 2010), and across England, almost 1 in 10 of all new social housing tenants are given to foreign migrants (Hansard, 5 December 2012, Col. 766W).
Figures started to be compiled in 2007. Since then the proportion of new social lets to foreign nationals has risen from 6.5% in 2007 to 2008 to 9.0% in 2011 to 2012 across England (latest CORE datasets).
Data on the nationality of new social tenants was not recorded for a third of lettings by councils in London last year, as requested by the government (Hansard, 29 January 2013, Col. 700W). The government is working with these councils to improve the data collected.