Prime minister David Cameron is set to introduce a mandatory licensing regime of private landlords.
What is being described as a bombshell is outlined in a speech Cameron gave yesterday on immigration.
Most commentators have so far focused on his announcement that the current ‘right to rent’ trial in the midlands whereby landlords or their agents must check the immigration status of tenants is to be rolled out nationwide.
But Cameron added that a new mandatory licensing regime will be introduced.
There are no details, for example as to timing, how it would be enforced, or whether it will include letting agents.
However, this does seem highly likely given that agents act for landlords and can legally bear responsibility for ‘right to rent’ checks and other duties.
Until now, the Tories have always rejected any such policy, and it did not appear in their election manifesto.
The last Labour administration said it wanted landlord – and letting agents – licensing but never introduced it.
But this is what Cameron said: “There are other ways we can identify those who shouldn’t be here, for example through housing. For the first time we’ve had landlords checking whether their tenants are here legally.
“The Liberal Democrats only wanted us to run a pilot on that one. But now we’ve got a majority, we will roll it out nationwide, and we’ll change the rules so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly.
“We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime. And, a bit like ending jobs when visas expire, we’ll consult on cancelling tenancies automatically at the same point.
“It’s not just through housing and jobs; we can track down illegal migrants through the banking system too.”
After Eye’s breaking news story went out this afternoon (Friday), reaction came in from industry bodies.
David Cox, ARLA managing director, said this evening: “We are pleased to see the Government listened to our housing manifesto calls for greater regulation of the private rented sector.
“However, whilst this is a step in the right direction, it’s not the full solution to the problem of rogue agents plaguing the market. We urge the Government to take this opportunity and impose more appropriate, over-arching regulation on the whole lettings industry.
“We look forward to hearing the full details of the plans in the Queen’s Speech next week.”
Also this evening, the Residential Landlords Association said it is writing to immigration minister James Brokenshaw, seeking an urgent meeting.
It said the proposals “raise many questions”.
RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “No form of universal licensing of rented property is proven to capture the most unscrupulous landlords. As so often, the devil will be in the detail.”