Today sees the Right To Rent scheme roll out across the whole of England.
Landlords are now required to check the immigration status of all new tenants before agreeing a tenancy, with fines of up to £3,000 for those who rent to someone without the right to live in the UK.
The scheme has received plenty of criticism and has already seen problems during its trial period in some parts of the West Midlands.
As the scheme launches nationally, the Residential Landlords Association claims that 90% of landlords have not been given any information from the Government on their new obligations.
In its survey of more than 1,500 landlords, the RLA found that a lack of correspondence from the Government is leading to widespread confusion on how the checks are to be carried out.
72% of respondents to the survey said they do not understand their responsibilities under the scheme. As a result, many are likely to refuse accommodation to those who cannot easily prove their right to live in Britain.
44% said that they would only rent to those who were in possession of documents familiar to them. This is likely to cause huge concerns to the estimated 17% of UK nationals without a passport.
The RLA is calling for a more thorough investigation of the pilot scheme, which noted that there was only, ‘limited evidence,’ that it was putting off illegal immigrants from attempting to access rental housing.
Dr David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA, observed, ‘the Government argues that its right to rent plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.’
Right To Rent rolls out nationally TODAY
Smith feels that, ‘landlords are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Fearful of a fine they face two difficult ways forward. They can play it safe and take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport. Alternatively, they may target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism.’
‘The Government’s own evaluation of its pilot scheme noted that there was only limited evidence that the policy is achieving its objectives. Given the considerable problems it will create for tenant-landlord relations it’s time for the Government to think again,’ Smith added.
Figures obtained from the Home Office by law firm Simpson Millar indicate that just nine civil penalties were served to landlords under the Right to Rent pilot scheme, between 1 December 2014 and 19 November 2015.
‘Given that the pilot covered an area with more than 2 million people it is hard to see how the scheme has had any significant financial impact at all, ‘said Sumita Gupta, head of immigration at Simpson Millar in Manchester. ‘Rather, it has the potential to create a culture of fear and discrimination.’
Concluding, Millar said, ‘there will be rogue landlords who won’t care about undertaking the required document checks; they could view this new scheme as an opportunity to exploit a very vulnerable group of people who might otherwise find it difficult to secure accommodation and end up homeless