Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Immigration checks by landlords

08 May 2013

One of the proposals in the Queen’s Speech today is that private landlords will have to check the immigration status of their tenants. Giles Peaker has previously written about this on Nearly Legal.

There are no details about how this is to be implemented yet, but I assume the government has in mind a similar regime as in employment law. Broadly, it is a criminal offence to employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK. But there is a defence if you have checked, and retained copies of, certain original documents that lead you to believe that they do have the right to work.

The problem with the employment scheme is that, understandably, employers are reluctant to expose themselves to the possibility of criminal liability and fines up to £10,000.

Added to this is the fact that confirming that someone has the right to work in the UK is difficult. You can’t just ring the Home Office and ask. Employers that do are told something to the effect of ‘We can neither confirm nor deny’, which, in my experience, tends to worry them more. Few employers are expert in immigration matters, so they find assessing the myriad documents they might be shown difficult. Matters are even further complicated by the need to send original documents to the Home Office when applying for things like indefinite leave to remain (and the Home Office’s tendency to hold onto them for some time).

The overwhelming temptation for employers when things get difficult is to err on the side of caution. Which tends to mean dismissing (or not taking on) an employee whose status you doubt.

This, for fairly obvious reasons, tends to disproportionately harm people who are not white British. No employer, for example, has ever asked me to demonstrate that I have the right to work to work in the UK – although for all they know I’m an anglophile American who’s affecting a particularly convincing English accent.

I can’t see any reason that a similar scheme in relation to landlords won’t encounter very similar problems.

blog comments powered by Disqus