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Housing groups fight plan for landlord immigration checks

CALLS have been made to halt new laws which would see landlords forced by the threat of a hefty fine to check the immigration status of their tenants.

The Scottish Government is calling on Westminster to consult with organisations in Scotland before implementing the controversial new laws.

Property owners could be fined up to £3000 under the UK Government's Immigration Act 2014 if they do not carry out proper checks on prospective tenants.

The move has attracted widespread criticism from housing and immigration organisations. They claim it will lead to discrimination against those who do not have documentation readily available, such as the homeless and people fleeing domestic violence.

It has prompted concern that 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.

Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare, said: "I have already made my concerns known to the UK Government and called for the Scottish Government, housing and other relevant stakeholders to be properly consulted before any roll-out of these requirements."

The rules will be introduced in one area of the UK later this year before being rolled out across the whole country.

The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), the Scottish Refugee Council, Shelter Scotland, Crisis, the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations have signed a joint ­statement opposing the new rules.

John Blackwood, SAL chief executive, said: "Landlords should not be corralled by law into highly specialised activities which are the proper responsibility of immigration authorities … If this duty takes effect in Scotland it will not only burden good landlords, but won't touch criminal ones who by definition disregard the law."

He added: "The duty will lead to discriminatory practices against prospective tenants from minority or vulnerable backgrounds who are suspected of lacking or who actually don't have the required documentation."

Gary Christie, acting chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), said the legislation was "symptomatic of a needless and persistent negativity in asylum and immigration legislation".

A Scottish Government spokesman said the proposals would not be implemented in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum.

Nobody from the Home Office was available to comment.

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