British people who don’t have passports are struggling to rent homes, after the Government made landlords responsible for carrying out illegal migrant checks.
According to a new survey of landlords by the RLA, 43% said that they were less likely to rent to those who do not have a British passport because of the fear of criminal sanctions for getting it wrong under the Right to Rent legislation.
According to the 2011 census, 17% of people in England and Wales did not have a passport.
Nearly two-thirds of landlords said that they were less likely to rent to those who only have permission to stay in the UK for a limited period of time and 56% are less likely to rent to people coming from outside the European Union or European Economic Area.
The survey found also that 63% of landlords are worried that they will make a mistake or be caught out by forged documents and be unfairly fined. Just 13% reported having found the Home Office’s Advice Line helpful to them.
With immigrants more likely to be in private rented housing than any other tenure, the RLA is calling for swift clarity about the status of EU nationals living in the UK to avoid landlords becoming nervous about continuing to rent to them for fear about what their status may be.
The RLA is calling also for the publication of clear guidance from the Director for Public Prosecutions to provide much greater assurance that landlords who are seeking to do the right thing, but get caught by forged documents, will not face sanctions.
David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA said: “These survey findings confirm our fears. Those who cannot easily prove their right to live in the UK, whether they are British or not, are finding it harder to access homes to rent. This is particularly concerning for those UK nationals without a passport, many of them the most vulnerable in society.
“Landlords are quite reasonably becoming ultra-cautious to avoid tough criminal sanctions and need reassurance that they will not be punished when they get fooled by false documents. They are not trained immigration officers.”
Since February this year, all private landlords in England have had to check that tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property, known as the Right to Rent checks. Landlords failing to do so currently face a fine of up to £3,000. From the 1st December landlords who knowingly rent to people without permission to live in the UK face a prison sentence.