Thursday, 29 January 2015

Social landlord agrees immigration deal with the Home Office

Glasgow landlord to report suspicions over legal status of housing applicants

Scotland’s largest housing association has become the first landlord in the UK to sign a deal with the Home Office to identify illegal migrants who apply for housing.

Glasgow Housing Association agreed an information-sharing protocol with the Home Office’s immigration enforcement unit last month, acting on GHA’s concerns over potentially handling housing applications from individuals with false identification documents and no right to live in the UK.

According to an Oxford University study published in December, the number of migrants living in Scotland doubled from 191,571 to 369,284 between 2001 and 2011. The largest increase was recorded in Glasgow.

Under the agreement, 43,000-home GHA will flag up suspicions about the migration status of individuals and families who apply for housing during routine identity checks it carries out for all housing applicants.

Front line officers will complete a form for applicants they have doubts about and send it to the immigration enforcement unit. If the Home Office finds the housing applicant has no right to stay in the UK, they will be subject to immigration enforcement.

GHA said it was implementing the protocol to ensure the housing application process was fairer. Previously, housing officers had no way of checking a tenant’s migration status.

The move comes amid growing concern over the government’s Immigration Bill going through the House of Lords.

The bill has caused disquiet among housing associations, which face fines of up to £3,000 if they fail to undertake checks to determine housing applicants’ rights to live in the UK. Local authorities are exempt.

Andy Young, policy manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said demands placed on landlords through the Immigration Bill meant GHA’s agreement with the Home Office should be ‘rolled out to the whole of the UK, not just the rest of Scotland’.

Margaret Moore, housing access leader for Wheatley Group, GHA’s parent company, said: ‘GHA’s new protocol with Home Office immigration enforcement enables us to make sure we allocate our homes fairly.’

Immigration Bill: key points

  • The Immigration Bill was introduced by Theresa May, the home secretary, and is expected to receive royal assent by spring this year
  • The bill forces private landlords and housing associations to check the immigration status of their tenants to avoid facing fines of up to £3,000
  • This does not apply to tenants who have been nominated by local authorities because councils should have already checked housing applicants’ immigration status


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Readers' comments (2)

  • Chris

    Makes sense. Perhaps they will also report other suspicions of criminality too.

    Mind you, every single landlord I have worked with, and there have been many, carry out checks on the right to housing as a matter of procedure. This includes identity, nationality, financial, employment, local connections, family composition, and of course tenancy management issue histories as well as any input from statutory agencies. Indeed, every housing management system requires data capture of these items when setting up a tenancy.

    I am sure Mrs May means well but all she had to do was find out what was already in place rather than believe her colleagues and wider public misplaced view.

    The sharing of this data is nearly new though and as I say welcome. It will add to the inter landlord and local authority protocols that have existed for years.

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  • Richard Mandunya

    It seems a bit strange that they 'signed up' to obeying the law. Is it not meant to be a matter of standard practice anyway?

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