Landlords who fail to carry out right to rent checks on tenants could face jail.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd intends to make ignoring the right to rent rules introduced in February a criminal offence for landlords and letting agents.
The new offence will come into force from December as part of the strict Immigration Act 2016.
Under the act, landlords or letting agents who knowingly rent out a home to someone who does not have the right to live in the UK commits an offence.
The new law also makes ignoring periodic checks of renters whose residence visas may have expired during tenancies an offence.
If a landlord identifies an illegal immigrant, they must also file a report with the Home Office.
Landlords guilt of an offence face uncapped fines or up to five years in prison.
Rudd’s announcement was part of a wide ranging speech covering immigration issues at the Tory conference in Birmingham.
“From December, landlords that knowingly rent out property to people who have no right to be here will be committing a criminal offence. They could go to prison,” she told the party faithful.
She explained the move was part of a series of measures aimed at cutting net migration to ‘sustainable levels’.
Part of her plan is to set up a £140 million fund to pay for immigration control. Some of this money will finance compliance against landlords and letting agents.
The new Immigration Act also includes a statutory defence – landlords who can show they have taken reasonable steps to evict an illegal immigrant do not commit the criminal offence.
In her speech, Rudd also announced that taxi businesses and banks would have to carry out right to reside checks to stop illegal immigrants working and accessing financial services.