Outcry over UK Immigration Act as landlords are forced to undertake checks on vulnerable people
Housing groups and human rights campaigners fear UK immigration legislation could discriminate against vulnerable groups applying for new tenancies.
Property owners could be fined up to £3,000 under the UK Government's Immigration Act 2014 if they do not carry out proper checks on prospective tenants.
Under the proposals, before renting accommodation to anyone as their main or only home, landlords will have to ask prospective tenants to produce evidence of their permission to be in the UK.
If a person cannot produce satisfactory evidence, the landlord won’t be allowed to let their property to them.
The move has attracted widespread criticism from housing and immigration organisations who claim it will lead to discrimination against those who do not have readily available documentation, such as the homeless and people fleeing domestic violence.
This is likely to increase the risk of discrimination against vulnerable tenants, in particular homeless households - Graeme Brown
There are also fears from campaign groups people will be forced to turn to illegal landlords and in extreme cases, face exploitation.
Housing organisations are also unhappy that landlords - including those simply taking on a lodger - will be required to carry out lengthy investigations into tenants' backgrounds.
The Scottish Government has raised concerns about the legislation, saying there appears to be no evidence it is needed in Scotland.
The rules will be introduced in one area of the UK later this year before being rolled out across the whole country.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said his charity was deeply concerned about the Immigration Act’s “ill thought-out and unworkable requirement”.
“This is likely to increase the risk of discrimination against vulnerable tenants – in particular homeless households – who may find it difficult to prove their immigration status quickly,” he said.
“At the same time it is likely to drive migrants into the hands of criminal landlords who already operate outside the law. The Act will therefore fail to achieve its stated aim.”
Andy Young, policy and membership manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said Scotland’s housing association staff were effectively acting as proxy immigration officials.
“We feel that the proposals are inappropriate in principle, unworkable in practice and lacking in proper evidence.
There is also the potential for discrimination and exacerbating inequality in housing association stock.
Young added: “We support the Scottish Government’s call for a full and proper consultation with Scottish housing and health bodies before the scheme is rolled out here.”
Gary Christie, acting chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council said the legislation was "symptomatic of a needless and persistent negativity in asylum and immigration legislation".