Buy-to-let landlords required to carry out controversial checks on the immigration status of potential tenants is encouraging and even facilitating racial discrimination, according to Bates Wells.
The launch of the Home Office’s new online service tomorrow is likely to increase publicity around these checks and lead to more landlords screening out foreign applicants or those with foreign-sounding names, without going through the proper checking process, the law firm warns.
The new service is the latest effort by the Home Office to streamline processes through digitisation.
Landlords who fail to undertake these immigration status checks can be fined £1,000 for a first offence and £3,000 for a further offence.
In the 12 months up to March 31 2018, the Home Office had fined 245 landlords.
Chetal Patel, Partner in Bates Wells’ Immigration practice said: “The new push the Home Office is putting behind these checks could give rise to even greater discrimination on the basis of race and nationality.”
“Individuals who have non-English sounding names, may find themselves ignored by landlords and could struggle to find a place to live, even if they have every right to be living and working in the UK.”
“Streamlining and digitising processes doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, as not all prospective tenants or tenants will have a UK immigration status that can be checked online.”
“Placing the burden on ordinary people like Buy-to-Let investors to undertake the policing of immigration rules is a poor policy decision in the first place.”
“The government has come under fire for its Hostile Environment Policy, culminating in the Windrush scandal and this latest service could add fuel to the fire.”