David Cameron ruffled a few feathers when he slipped into a speech on immigration his plans for a "mandatory licensing regime" for landlords. It would be a weapon in the fight against illegal immigration. But wait, what? There was no mention of "mandatory licensing" in his election manifesto.
Prior to the election, landlords had assumed the "Leftie lot" were the bad guys, what with those threats of compulsory three-year tenancies and rent caps. The Tories were cast as the party that would leave landlords be. But then Cameron announced that he is going to be the one to "crack down on unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants" by introducing licensing.
Seriously, it was enough to make me think of selling up. I've nothing against licensing in principle, but the thought of dealing with inefficient town halls stuffed with bureaucrats makes me want to go and lie in a darkened room.
However, panic not. It doesn't look as though the Tories are going to force all landlords to obtain a licence. As far as I am aware, full details of the plans haven't been revealed, but the Department for Communities and Local Government, which looks after housing, has since said that the PM was referring only to homes in multiple occupation — HMOs.
At the moment, any property with three storeys or more let to five or more tenants who form more than one household — ie sharers — must have an HMO licence for health and safety reasons. Councils can choose to license smaller HMOs if they wish, but most do not. Now Cameron is looking at using this legislation to weed out illegal immigrants.
So most of us can relax... a little.
However, I'm nervous that the Tories are going to insist on licensing for all properties let to any number of sharers, because I've got a two-storey maisonette let to four students. I certainly would not invest in any largish rental properties until the proposals become clearer.
A further concern is that the PM is pushing ahead with his plan for landlords to check the immigration status of every tenant under his Right to Rent scheme, which he plans to roll out nationwide, even though a pilot scheme running in the West Midlands has yet to be evaluated.
We don't know yet when Right to Rent will be introduced in London, but when it is, we will all have to check every new tenant's right to live in the UK. That will mean taking a copy of their passport and relevant visa, and presumably keeping these under lock and key to make sure we don't fall foul of the Data Protection Act. It sounds simple enough but, as I've previously written, I wouldn't know a genuine visa from a fake and if I make a mistake, I risk a nasty fine.
Mr Cameron is also planning to change the law so we can evict illegal immigrants more quickly and he is looking into the idea of tenancies being automatically cancelled when a tenant's visa expires. Sadly, I think this will only make it harder foreigners from outside the EU living here legally to find accommodation, while it will do nothing to weed out illegal immigrants. Landlords will be reluctant to let to anyone requiring a visa, especially if they want longterm tenants, forcing immigrants into the clutches of "unscrupulous landlords", who will continue to stick two fingers up at the law.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock