Amber Rudd's got the answer to our immigration challenges.
The Home Secretary proposes to make it a criminal offence for a landlord to house a tenant who cannot prove they can sing the National Anthem and recite the names of the last ten Prime Ministers. Actually, from February this year, and even earlier in Birmingham, it's already been an offence they can fine you £3000 for, although that seems to have been forgotten in the press coverage.
The majority of landlords are not horrible bullies who abuse tenants. 78% of them have only one property. They're often accidental landlords, inheriting a house or failing to sell one, or moving round the country owing to work. Or they have put their savings in a property because, rightly, they have no faith in banks or pensions. They probably try to keep the property decent and the tenants happy so they can have decent stretches of tenancy without the risk of emptiness.
Suddenly, we accidental landlords are the devil, more so with every announcement. We're now no longer to be allowed tax benefit from the mortgage repayments. No, we are taxed on profit we have not made. We take on all the risk of a property, with little benefit. Indeed, sometimes no benefit, when you get a tenant who destroys your property and won't get out.
But we are the devil.
What's this latest proposal? That we lay-landlords perform due checks to make sure we are not housing an illegal immigrant. If we fail, we can go to prison. So, we are landed with doing the job that her Majesty's Border Force fails to do. Will those uniformed folk go to prison too if they let someone through they shouldn't?
What next? Let's make Sainsbury's do immigration checks before they deliver your kippers, kiwis and Kit Kats. After all, if illegals can't eat, that's got to be good news, surely.
This vicarious legislation is ill-judged, headline-grabbing and reactionary. Another attack on people trying to run their lives efficiently so that they can afford to stay in a nursing home which serves proper tea when they're old.