Hundreds of landlords have been fined thousands of pounds for failing to comply with the Government’s controversial Right to Rent scheme.
Penalties totalling £163,000 were handed out after the Right to Rent scheme was rolled out across England, official data reveals.
Fines were issued to 236 property owners between the start of February 2016 and June this year – a rate of around one every two days.
The scheme requires landlords to establish whether a tenant has a right to live in the UK, by taking copies of documents, such as passports or identity cards.
Hundreds of Landlords Fined over Failure to Comply with Right to Rent
Failure to comply with the scheme can lead to fines of up to £3,000 per tenant, while those that knowingly let to people with no right to rent in the UK can face up to five years in prison.
Ministers introduced the measures to create a “hostile environment” for those with no right to be in the UK. Illegal immigrants are also banned from opening bank accounts, while driving licences can be refused or revoked.
Figures published by the Home Office show that the number of landlords that have been fined for failing to comply with the scheme has more than tripled in just over a year.
Between April and June 2017 – the latest statistics available – 76 penalties worth £47,700 were issued. This compares with just 14 fines worth a total of £13,800 in the first three months of 2016.
The Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, says: “We believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to people here legally, but firm with those who break the rules or who enable others to do so.
“The Right to Rent scheme deters people from staying in the UK when they have no right to be here.”
He continues: “We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, local authorities and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
“Landlords can avoid the risk of a civil penalty by conducting simple and straightforward checks on tenants’ documents, in accordance with Home Office regulations.”
To help landlords comply with the rules, we have created a guide with the Home Office’s help. Read it for free here: /home-office-reinforces-landlord-responsibilities-right-rent/
Campaigners claim, however, that the scheme fuels discrimination and argue that there is little evidence of it having an impact on the crackdown on immigration.
Chris Norris, the Head of Policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), believes: “A growing but small number of landlords have been penalised as a result of the scheme so far, with an average fine of around £600 handed out in conjunction with these cases.
“This suggests that landlords are more likely to be accidentally falling foul of the law, rather than deliberately or maliciously breaking the rules.”
He adds: “It’s important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents, so, with time, education and the right support, we’d hope that these kinds of cases begin to diminish.
“However, ultimately, this scheme should be judged on whether it tackles or prevents those who knowingly ignore the law and let to people who are in the UK illegally, but, so far, there’s little evidence to suggest it is having the desired effect.”
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants insists that the Government “has provided no evidence that this policy actually encourages undocumented migrants to leave the UK”.
The charity’s Legal and Policy Director, Chai Patel, concludes: “It is likely that, instead, the policy is driving vulnerable migrants into the hands of rogue landlords.”
Whatever your thoughts on the scheme, it is essential that you avoid fines and imprisonment by complying with the rules.