Categorized | contractor pensions, news

New immigration laws for landlords threaten contractor investment

Becoming a buy-to-let landlord has long been a way for contractors to invest in their future. Relatively hassle free, they can get on with their own business whilst the rent rolls in from their property venture to top up their pension/earnings.

All that could be about to change following Mr Cameron’s announcement of a new mandatory license for private landlords last week.

It’s not only contractors who’ve bought buy-to-let properties who’ll have reservations. The NLA has already voiced its concerns about such a licensing scheme.

So why introduce new legislation and what’s to be gained?

It’s no secret: some landlords shirk their responsibilities. Recent TV images of people trapped by circumstance living in squalid conditions is enough to justify a register on its own.

But that’s not the real target of Mr Cameron’s new initiative. He dropped the bomb about a landlord’s registrar during his speech on government plans to control immigration.

It’s the toughest speech on immigration in many people’s living memory. Making landlords accountable for their tenants’ right to be in the UK is only a part of the overall strategy.

Automatic evictions are one possible avenue the registrar’s proposers are investigating. The moment an immigrant’s visa runs out, their tenancy agreement would end too. Then if the tenant doesn’t want to leave, the landlord will have the power to evict them.

Should an immigrant wish to appeal, they’ll face a ‘deport first; appeal later’ ethos, which is set to roll out across the whole of government.

Landlords who “cram houses full of illegal immigrants” will also be on the radar. The punishment for those found to be housing illegals, working for little or no money, was not revealed in the speech.

All those critters? We’re not sold.

On paper, this sounds like a plan. But the main concern of Richard Lambert, NLA CEO, is Westminster failing to give local councils the resources to execute their potential powers.

The fact is, councils could tackle many of the issues that Mr Cameron raised to some degree under existing law. The problem is resources, or a lack thereof, in local council budget. This applies to both uncovering illegal immigrants and bringing unscrupulous landlords to justice.

Mr Lambert would rather see existing powers enforced without councils having to go “cap in to the Treasury” than reams of new legislation destined for the same bottleneck.

The NLA chief concluded that the existing Right to Rent scheme – or any further measures new laws make statute – shouldn’t absolve the government of responsibility for immigration.

Should contractors be responsible for ousting tenants?

Yes, landlords can do so much. But it’s ultimately the government that the electorate put their faith in to tackle immigration, not landlords.

The vast majority of contractors who’ve invested in buy-to-let to shore up their reduced retirement funds never signed up to fight the government’s battles.

The extent of any laws passed (following consultation) will determine whether private landlords continue to provide the service they do currently. Without them providing roofs over tenants’ heads, local councils would face a housing nightmare on a daily basis. Let’s hope the government decides not to bite any more fingers off the hand that feeds it.

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