Private landlords or their letting agents may be required to check the immigration status of at least 2.6m tenants per year, and maybe more than double this figure, when the Right to Rent scheme is enforced in England on 1st February.
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has released this calculation, after finding that there were 2.6m moves within the private rental sector in the year 2013/14.
Right to Rent Could Mean Over 5m Immigration Checks for Landlords Every Year
However, it warns that the amount of prospective tenants who will be subject to these checks every year could “easily be double that figure, based on a conservative estimate that each letting will involve two households being checked”.
The CIH is calling for the nationwide roll out of Right to Rent to be postponed, believing it should be trialled in a “high pressure area”, such as London.
A pilot scheme has already been trialled in the West Midlands, running for just over 13 months. But the CIH is calling for another trial.
Under the Right to Rent scheme, checks must be conducted on all new tenants, without discrimination. Landlords are able to pass this legal responsibility onto their agent by written agreement.
The requirement to undertake immigration checks was included in the Immigration Act 2014, which imposes civil penalties.
However, the latest Immigration Bill 2015 would enforce criminal penalties, including jail sentences.
The CIH warns that due to the scale of the task and threat of criminal sanctions, landlords may discriminate against any tenants they think aren’t British, even if they have a legal right to live in the UK.
Chief Executive of the CIH, Terrie Alafat, says it is important for landlords to be given proper training on how to perform the immigration checks, in order to “combat the risk of discrimination against people who have every right to be in the UK”.
He continues: “For many people, private renting is the only option, and if this is removed, homelessness and destitution may follow.
“The new Housing and Planning Bill includes measures to tackle rogue landlords, which we have welcomed, but an unintended consequence of the Immigration Bill could be that more tenants are pushed towards the sorts of landlords who ask no questions and will rent poor quality accommodation to anyone who’ll pay the rent.
“Before the checks are extended to all new lettings in England, it is therefore vital that landlords are given training in how to carry them out – but there is very little time in which to do this.”
He adds: “The start should be postponed until this is done, otherwise both tenants and landlords could fall foul of the new requirements.”1
The CIH warns that immigration checks can be very complicated; if the tenant doesn’t have an EU passport, they could have one of three dozen or more types of immigration document, or their paperwork could be with the Home Office.