Posts with tag: right to rent scheme

The Impact of Right to Rent Checks on International Students

The latest research from student lettings platform StudentTenant.com exposes the impact of the controversial Right to Rent checks on international students, as the Government tries to crack down on illegal migrants.

Introduced in February last year, the Right to Rent scheme was launched by the Government as part of a wider initiative to assist with combating illegal immigration.

All landlords and letting agents are now required to check that tenants are legally in the country before renting out a property, or face criminal sanctions.

The Impact of Right to Rent Checks on International Students

The Impact of Right to Rent Checks on International Students

Tenants, including international students, must prove that they are legally allowed to reside in England by providing their identification documents to landlords. Tenants that do not provide the documentation could face deportation.

As it has now been a full year since the Right to Rent scheme was introduced, StudentTenant has assessed whether it has been successful in combating illegal migration, or if it has become an avenue for landlords to discriminate against international students/tenants.

Government data regarding the Right to Rent checks found that, of the 7,806 calls made by landlords to the Home Office between July 2015 and June 2016, just 31 illegal migrants were deported – calling into question how effective the scheme really is.

Furthermore, the official Right to Rent report from the Home Office reads: “Landlords, agents and householders should not be acting in a discriminatory way provided they make all checks on prospective adult occupiers.”

Nevertheless, a damaging new report from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants suggests that the scheme is causing discrimination against Britons, particularly ethnic minorities.

In addition, StudentTenant found that an alarming 23% of landlords were less likely to consider international students, while 76% of student landlords would not consider a tenant if they could not provide documentation that proves they are legally allowed to rent the property instantly.

It is likely that, due to requirements from the Government to check the legitimacy of documentation, recording expiry dates of immigration status and the pressure of fines, landlords are less willing to take on the extra burden of international students, the agency believes.

12 months on from in the introduction of the checks, 47% of student landlords still feel that the scheme will not have a significant impact on filtering out illegal immigrants in England – the core reason it was set up. What’s even more worrying, StudentTenant points out, is that 17% of landlords are still unaware of the rules.

The Managing Director of StudentTenant, Danielle Cullen, says: “When the new Right to Rent regulations were introduced, there was uproar amongst the landlord community, because of the supposedly unfair burden placed on them in relation to enforcing immigration laws. I have to say that the apparent ineffective implementation of the regulations so far seems to have warranted that uproar, particularly given the adverse effects on the international community legally residing within the UK.

“The worst part must be the lack of resources to actually police the changes, represented by the very minimal number of fines and deportations. Instead of actually assisting with a problem which should essentially be managed by the Government, it has simply created divides and increased discrimination and access to housing for non-British tenants, which is just not acceptable.”

Have your attitudes towards letting to international students changed following the introduction of the checks?

Right to Rent Scheme Leading to Discrimination Against Britons

Published On: February 13, 2017 at 10:17 am

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The Right to Rent scheme is leading to discrimination against Britons, especially ethnic minorities, in the private rental sector, a new report shows.

The study, by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), found that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly ethnic minorities, are facing discrimination in the private rental sector as a result of the Right to Rent scheme, which was designed to crack down on illegal immigration.

The report reveals that 51% of landlords said the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals. In addition, 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to let to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when they were explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanctions involved with the scheme.

In a mystery shopping exercise conducted by the JCWI, an enquiry from a British Black Minority (BME) tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords.

The Right to Rent scheme requires landlords and letting agents to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, and refuse a tenancy to illegal migrants. If they fail to comply with the scheme, landlords and agents face a fine of up to £3,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years.

The JCWI believes that the scheme creates structural incentives for discrimination against foreigners and ethnic minorities.

Currently in force in England and expected for roll out across the rest of the UK, the Right to Rent scheme does not contain adequate safeguards against discrimination, adequate mechanisms to monitor discrimination, or any form of redress for victims of discrimination, warns the JCWI. The organisation is calling on the Government to abandon the scheme and immediately halt any plans for roll out.

Right to Rent Scheme Leading to Discrimination Against Britons

Right to Rent Scheme Leading to Discrimination Against Britons

The Chief Executive of the JCWI, Saira Grant, says: “We have been warning for some time that the Right to Rent scheme is failing on all fronts. It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position, and there is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration.

“Creating a so-called hostile environment that targets vulnerable men, women and children is bad enough, implementing a scheme that traps and discriminates against British citizens is absurd. Expanding the scheme to devolved nations without taking into account the discrimination it causes would be misguided and unjustifiable. It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage.”

The JCWI’s research suggests that landlords who have no desire to discriminate are being forced to do so by the scheme, with individuals who have a full right to rent a home in the UK being disadvantaged, along with others who should have access to housing.

Landlords can be heavily fined or even imprisoned if they do not comply with the scheme. This, combined with the complexity of the immigration checks they must undertake, means that, in some cases, they are pushed to choose tenants who they consider a safer bet because they hold a British passport, ‘seem British’, or their name sounds British, the report reveals.

The Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), Alan Ward, responds to the findings: “We share JCWI concerns over document discrimination, and these findings reflect issues that the RLA raised right from the start. The Government’s own figures show the Right to Rent scheme is not working, so maybe it is time to scrap it and think again. With the threat of a jail sentence hanging over landlords if they get it wrong, it is hardly surprising that they are being cautious.

“There are more than 400 acceptable documents proving right to rent from within the EU alone, and landlords are making risk-based decisions and only accepting documents that they recognise and have confidence in. The RLA supports landlords by offering immigration and Right to Rent courses, which guide them through the complex process – including a section on the Equality Act and how to avoid discrimination.”

The scheme is a key part of the Government’s drive to lower net migration, with authorities hoping that an inability to rent a home in the UK will push migrants who have no legal status in Britain to leave the country. However, the JCWI report shows that the Government is not monitoring whether the scheme is achieving this aim, or whether it is pushing vulnerable people into the hands of rogue landlords.

In a further mystery shopping exercise, a white British tenant without a passport was 11% more likely to be ignored or turned down by landlords than a white British applicant with a passport. This is particularly worrying considering that 17% of British citizens do not hold a passport.

BME communities are the worse impacted by the scheme, found the JCWI. Where neither the white British tenant nor the BME British tenant had a passport, the BME tenant was 14% more likely to be turned away or ignored. The JCWI’s mystery shopping exercise found no evidence of ethnicity discrimination where a non-BME and a BME British citizen both held passports, demonstrating that the discrimination arises from the scheme itself.

Worryingly, 85% of inquiries from the most vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers, stateless persons and victims of modern day slavery, who require landlords to do an online check with the Home Office to confirm they have been granted permission to rent, received no response at all from landlords.

Kirby Costa Campos, a US citizen who is married to an EU national and has a full right to rent in the UK, explains how the scheme has affected her: “Two days before we were supposed to move in, we get an email from the rental agency saying: ‘We’re not going to release the keys to you, you’ve lost your deposit with us, because you’re not legal in this country.’ It was awful. I was crying for that entire 24-hour period. I mean, I have a six-year-old. My child was going to be on the street. It was awful, it was absolutely awful.”

Clare Higson, a member of of the Eastern Landlords Association, looks at the scheme from a landlord’s perspective: “How can we, as landlords, ever know really if someone has got the right to rent? Why should we be working as immigration officers? When actually we haven’t got a clue and we certainly don’t have any information or any training. I feel I have absolutely no way at all of telling whether or not someone has got legitimate immigration papers – how would I recognise a false passport or travel document?”

Do you feel that the Right to Rent scheme is fuelling discrimination in the private rental sector?

Just 31 Illegal Migrants Removed from the UK Through Right to Rent Rules

Published On: January 11, 2017 at 9:33 am

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Just 31 illegal migrants have been removed from the UK through Right to Rent rules, according to statements made by Government ministers.

Following controversy over how effective the Right to Rent scheme will be at removing illegal migrants from the country, Labour’s Baroness Lister of Burtersett questioned the Government on how many landlords and tenants have been investigated under Right to Rent rules in the past year.

The Right to Rent scheme was introduced on 1st February 2016 in a bid to prevent illegal migrants’ access to the private rental sector.

Many landlords have struggled to understand their responsibilities concerning the rules, with recent research suggesting that the scheme is causing a great deal of worry to investors.

Just 31 Illegal Migrants Removed from the UK Through Right to Rent Rules

Just 31 Illegal Migrants Removed from the UK Through Right to Rent Rules

In fact, the Government has confirmed that it has received almost 8,000 calls to its landlord helpline in the past year. If you are having difficulty with your obligations, you can access support on 0300 069 9799.

While landlords can now be imprisoned for failing to comply with Right to Rent rules, it appears that the scheme may not be proving as effective as the Government may have hoped.

Responding to Baroness Lister’s request on how many illegal migrants have been identified and removed from the UK through the scheme, the Minister of State for the Home Department, Baroness Williams of Trafford, explained that the Home Office does not hold information about the overall number of illegal migrants found living in private rental accommodation.

However, she did present some figures on how many illegal migrants have been identified through enforcement action.

She explained: “Our records show that between the start of the scheme and 30th September 2016, 654 individuals were either named on a Civil Penalty Referral Notice served on a landlord, or encountered on an enforcement visit during which such a Notice was served, or encountered as a result of information provided through the Landlords Checking Service, or encountered as a result of other intelligence provided about property let to illegal migrants.

“Of these individuals, 31 were removed from the UK over the same period. Other cases may be being progressed to removal, or have been made subject to reporting restrictions, or have sought to regularise their stay, or have left the UK voluntarily.”

Baroness Williams then went on to defend the scheme: “The Right to Rent scheme is designed to restrict access to the private rented sector for illegal migrants in order to encourage voluntary departure from the UK and discourage illegal migration. The Home Office will always investigate information it receives about illegal migrants and take appropriate enforcement action according to the information available and the circumstances of the case. It is not always possible to attribute a return or other enforcement activity to the application of a sanction earlier in the case or to the route through which a particular individual was brought to the attention of the Home Office.”

So has the scheme proved successful in rooting out landlords that knowingly let to illegal migrants?

Between 1st November 2015 and 31st October 2016, when failure to comply with Right to Rent rules was still a civil offence, 75 initial civil penalties were issued to individual landlords.

It appears that the Government’s attempts to deny illegal migrants access to housing in the UK may in fact be more effective at uncovering rogue landlords that provide rental housing to those unlawfully living in the country.

Do you believe that the scheme is a necessary measure, considering how few illegal migrants have been discovered?

New Provisions Under Immigration Act for Landlords and Letting Agents

Published On: November 3, 2016 at 9:37 am

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Earlier this week, the Home Office announced new provisions under the Immigration Act 2016 for landlords and letting agents.

Failure to comply with the Right to Rent scheme will become a criminal offence for landlords and letting agents on 1st December 2016.

The Home Office explained that the new criminal offences have been created to deal with rogue landlords and letting agents that knowingly, or with reasonable cause to believe, let to illegal migrants.

Under the new provisions, it will also be easier to evict illegal migrant tenants.

New Provisions Under Immigration Act for Landlords and Letting Agents

New Provisions Under Immigration Act for Landlords and Letting Agents

The Right to Rent scheme was first implemented in parts of the West Midlands on 1st October 2014, before being expanded across the rest of England from 1st February 2016. The Home Office claims that it will be extended to the rest of the UK in “due course”.

Under the civil penalties currently in place, landlords or letting agents that fail to make the relevant immigration checks are liable for a fine of up to £3,000 per illegal migrant tenant.

At present, if a landlord finds that an existing tenant is an illegal migrant, they cannot evict them from the property.

The new provisions will enable landlords to evict illegal migrant tenants more easily, and in some circumstances, without a court order. Landlords will obtain a notice issued by the Home Office, which confirms that the tenant is disqualified from renting in the UK as a result of their immigration status. On receipt of this, the landlord will be expected to take action to ensure that the illegal migrant leaves the property.

The Government has also introduced four new criminal offences to target rogue landlords and letting agents that exploit migrants and consistently flout the law by failing to conduct Right to Rent checks, or failing to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their property.

These landlords or agents may face a fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, both, or a fine and imprisonment and further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

However, the Act also offers a defence against the offences for landlords who have taken reasonable steps within a reasonable timeframe in seeking to terminate a tenancy involving an illegal migrant.

The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, comments on the new provisions: “We are clear that illegal immigrants should not be able to access or remain in private rented accommodation, preventing lawful residents from finding a home.

“We know the vast majority of landlords are diligent in their responsibilities when it comes to their tenants, and we want to help them to be able to evict illegal immigrants more easily.

“But unscrupulous landlords and agents who exploit migrants and who repeatedly fail to carry out Right to Rent checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrants from their property will find they could now face going to jail.”

The Managing Director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), David Cox, also responds to the announcement: “We are pleased to have a date for implementation; this goes some way towards addressing the issues revealed by Right to Rent checks since their implementation earlier in the year. If these measures prove to be effective in tackling rogue landlords who offer overcrowded and poor quality housing, it will be positive.

“Letting agents need to remember the new rules mean if they do flout the law, their company will be liable to pay a £3,000 civil penalty per occupier who is an illegal over-stayer, and they may be personally liable to an unlimited fine, as well as the potential of up to five years in prison.”

The Government’s factsheet can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537218/Immigration_Act_-_Part_2_-_Residential_Tenancies.pdf

REMEMBER: Right to Rent Launches on Monday

Published On: January 29, 2016 at 9:24 am

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From Monday (1st February), all landlords and letting agents in England must conduct immigration checks on prospective tenants under the Right to Rent scheme.

The Managing Director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), David Cox, warns that landlords or agents that have already agreed contracts or agree some over the weekend for tenancies starting on or after Monday must comply with the rules.

Although landlords can pass the responsibility onto letting agents, this must be agreed in writing and agents should add a clause into their contracts stating that they will conduct Right to Rent checks.

Cox also reminds that referencing agents cannot undertake the checks: “All they can do is check the documents are genuine. All identification checks need to be done by the letting agent.

“Also, remember it’s not just tenants who need to be checked. It’s all adult occupiers in the property.”1

REMEMBER: Right to Rent Launches on Monday

REMEMBER: Right to Rent Launches on Monday

The checks must be made within 28 days before the start of a new tenancy agreement, meaning that landlords and agents should have already conducted immigration checks if a tenancy is to start on Monday.

Landlords and agents must remember that they are not just legally obliged to check their prospective tenants’ immigration status, but to copy identification documents, such as passports, and keep the copy throughout the tenancy and for one year afterwards.

Those that do not comply with the Right to Rent scheme can be fined up to £3,000 under the Immigration Act 2014.

However, the new Immigration Bill 2015 – which is currently going through the House of Lords – will bring in criminal penalties for landlords and agents.

Several peers have expressed concern.

Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising believes: “I find it a bit rich that landlords should risk imprisonment for housing an illegal immigrant when it is the Government’s failure in their duty to protect the borders of this country that has resulted in the illegal immigrant being here in the first place.

“I fully understand the difficulties in controlling our borders, which will inevitably lead to errors, but should the person responsible for the error go to prison? If those responsible for allowing illegal immigration should not go to jail, why should a landlord?”

He continues: “It is not unreasonable for landlords to play their part in helping with the problem of illegal immigration, but what they are asked to do should be reasonable and proportionate.

“Landlords being subject to imprisonment for something over which, in practical terms, they can have little or no control is not reasonable.

“I point out that the people most affected by this will be that huge army of small landlords who do not have agents to act for them.”1

Another Conservative peer, Lord Deben, adds: “There is a fundamental concern about this legislation.”

He calls for a delay to Monday’s launch, saying that there should be a pilot scheme, which should be independently evaluated and “shown to have a real effect on illegal immigration”1.

Government advice on the Right to Rent scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents

For all of the latest landlord updates and advice, check back on LandlordNews.co.uk. 

1 http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/important-reminder-all-landlords-and-letting-agents-in-england-to-make-right-to-rent-checks-from-monday/

Agents Advised to Put Right to Rent Procedures in Place Within Weeks

Published On: November 13, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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Letting agents in England should put their Right to Rent checks procedure in place within the next six weeks, it was advised at the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) conference yesterday.

Agents Advised to Put Right to Rent Procedures in Place Within Weeks

Agents Advised to Put Right to Rent Procedures in Place Within Weeks

Landlords or their agents are obliged to conduct Right to Rent checks on prospective tenants from 1st February 2016.

The conference, held at the Mermaid Conference Centre next to Blackfriars Bridge, London, followed the theme of Sourcing Business in a Crowded Market Place.

Property expert Kate Faulkner was the conference moderator and also gave her own presentation on the future for the private rental sector.

She warns agents to look out for what is happening in Wales and Scotland, as changes in legislation affect their sectors. These changes could spread to the rest of the UK in the future and lettings firms must react accordingly.

Tim Rymer, the Deputy Director for Home Office policy, discussed the national rollout of the Right to Rent scheme, following a pilot in the West Midlands. He confirmed that agents and landlords will not be obliged to check on tenancies that start before 1st February next year.

However, solicitor Robert Bolwell pointed out that there is a 28-day period prior to the eve of the tenancy starting in which the checks must be conducted.

This means that agents and landlords must have their procedures in place and active from the beginning of January, if a tenancy is due to start after 1st February.

Bolwell, of law firm Dutton Gregory, gave a round up of new and forthcoming legislation and regulation, adding that it seems all letting agents must now be fully trained solicitors.

As agents are also obliged to provide tenants with a copy of the Government’s How to Rent guide, Bolwell urges firms to send it at the first opportunity and record the date that it is sent and the version given out, as new editions are released from time-to-time.