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Illegal immigrant laws raise discrimination issues for landlords

Under the scheme, landlords can be fined up to £3,000 if they let a property to illegal immigrants. One immediate consequence of the plan is that fees are being increased for all tenants, as the cost of conducting background checks on tenants is pushed onto landlords. However, some landlords are simply refusing to rent their properties out to any tenant they suspect may be, or even could be, an illegal immigrant – often because of nothing more than a foreign accent. Tenants who cannot easily prove their identity with a British or EU passport therefore find it harder to find a place to rent.

The pilot is being tested in the Midlands before being applied more widely across the country, with mixed results. Evidence from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that tenants are having to pay an average of an extra £100 for checks. Due to the need for landlords to fill vacancies as quickly as possible, anyone who has to spend time collecting paperwork is more likely to be passed over.

It is not only immigrants who are affected. Some native Britons have found they are being turned away if they cannot produce a passport or birth certificate, and some find the cost of replacing a passport (around £70) too high.

In high-demand areas, there is a real risk that landlords will simply accept tenants who have a British name and accent, meaning that immigrants – whether from the EU or elsewhere – will find it more expensive and time-consuming to find a home. One unintended consequence of the scheme is likely to be an increase in discrimination cases against landlords.

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