Landlords and letting agents are rejecting lawful prospective tenants in the pilot scheme of right to rent checks due to the unfamiliarity of some of the documents that must be checked.
A briefing note yesterday from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants describes the scheme as “dangerous.”
It believes that landlords and agents should not be treated as border control and that confusion over immigration documents is causing discrimination against renters.
It also warns that this confusion is not just within the pilot area, the West Midlands, but more widespread.
Under the right to rent scheme, which is due to be rolled out nationally soon, agents and landlords must check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, or face penalties, including up to five years in prison.
The briefing note has been published after two surveys, one for landlords and agents, and the other for tenants and lodgers. Of 76 responses, 31 were from agents and landlords.
The council also received further evidence, including 17 instances of discrimination and unfair refusal of tenancies and conducted a mystery shopping exercise.
One of the council’s main concerns is that checks are not being taken consistently, but are “instead directed at certain individuals who appear as if they may be a migrant.”
Half of respondents that were refused a tenancy felt that discrimination was a factor.
The council also noted widespread ignorance. Just 19% of agents and landlords nationwide were even aware of right to rent.
The briefing note highlights the fact that some landlords and agents are charging fees for conducting the checks and sometimes they pass on the cost of potential fines to the tenant through increased rent or deposits.
One third of respondents from the pilot area had been charged a handling fee of over £50 and 20% were charged more than £100.
The council states that right to rent “encourages discrimination and will create a hostile environment for all migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK seeking to access the private rental market.”
It continues: “Due to the current developments in Calais, we are now seeing a knee-jerk reaction from our Government who want to appear even tougher on illegal immigration through extending a dangerous scheme without proper consideration.”1
Responding to the briefing note, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) blames “the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into border police.”
It calls for the national roll out of the scheme to be delayed until the Government has published its own assessment of the pilot scheme in the West Midlands.
David Smith, the RLA Policy Director, says: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety.
“If the Government expects landlords and agents to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them.
“In the absence of such support, this research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy, which the RLA has long voiced concerns about.
“Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them.”
The Home Office has still not published its own assessment of the pilot scheme.
Smith continues: “It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the right to rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area.
“Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its roll out to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”1