Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has attacked the Right to Rent scheme that the new Immigration Bill seeks to make law.
Under Right to Rent, landlords or their agents will have to check the immigration status of tenants or risk criminal sanctions including jail.
The Bill, which will make it a criminal offence to let a private rental property to illegal immigrants, will also require ongoing checks where a tenant’s right to be in the UK could change. The Bill also gives fast-track powers of eviction of illegal tenants.
Burnham – apparently the first politician to pick up on the potential problems which have been discussed for months within the industry – said the new regime could cause problems for “anyone with a foreign-sounding name”.
Burnham said the Bill was “disproportionate, divisive and deceitful”.
He said the new document checks could become the modern equivalent of the “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs that landlords used to display in their windows in the 1960s.
Burnham accused the Government of trying to legislate for “everyday racism” in the housing market.
He called for Home Secretary Theresa May to rethink the entire scheme.
Separately, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the new fast-track eviction powers could leave families destitute, and breach their human rights.
The Bill returns to the House of of Commons tomorrow.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government has made clear that the Right to Rent scheme is about reducing illegal migrants’ access to services – it has never been targeted at people with a lawful right to be in the UK.
“Right to Rent checks must be performed on a non-discriminatory basis – landlords are advised to check and record identity documents for all new tenants.
“Anyone who discriminates would be breaking the law.”
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Landlords are rightly fearful of being caught out, and also that they could be criminalised by the legislation which threatens a £3,000 fine or even prison.