Requiring landlords to check immigration papers is frankly absurd and is just another way the Tories are trying to wash their hands clean of immigration control and enforcement. When the plans were first proposed in Coalition the Liberal Democrats worked our socks off to limit the Tories plans to one pilot to test out the idea. We knew then that it would fail – and we've been proved right.
When the right to rent pilot was trialled in the West Midlands we saw some shocking results. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), who conducted a survey on the impact of right to rent, found that 42% of landlords were unlikely to rent property out to people without British passports and over 25% of landlords would be less likely to rent to people if they had a foreign name or foreign accent.
That is horrific when you consider that in 2013/14 there were 2.6 million rentals in the private rented sector – a number that is likely only to have increased given the housing crisis.
The Government's own report also found that the right to rent pilot resulted in discrimination. Whilst the Government's overall aim is absolutely legitimate – we must tackle illegal immigration and its associated criminality, it is clear that this policy will sweep up with it families of innocent people.
The national homelessness charity, Crisis, has already warned that these measures could lead to an increase in people being made homeless through no fault of their own.
There is a wide range of documentation that could count, but put yourself in the shoes of a landlord and ask yourself honestly – would you rather go with someone who is able to present their passport promptly or risk renting your property to someone whose documents were unfamiliar to you?
And let's face it, there is a real risk to landlords. Not only are the Government planning on rolling out the scheme to the whole country from 1 February, they are also upping the penalties for landlords who fall foul – unwittingly or not. They could face a jail sentence or a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant, with that burden on their shoulders no wonder they would rather opt for the "safe bet".
It is clear that the Government is pressing ahead and ignoring the evidence in front of them. That is why the Liberal Democrats have moved to strike down the proposals and we call on both Labour and the SNP to support us before landlords and tenants are put at risk.
Tim Farron is Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale