Hundreds of landlords have been fined in a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Penalties totalling £163,000 have been issued under the Right to Rent scheme since the start of 2016.
Fines were issued to 236 property owners between the start of February 2016 and June this year – a rate of around one every two days.
The controversial Right to Rent scheme was introduce in England in February 2016, following a trial in the West Midlands and requires landlords to check prospective tenants’ immigration status and refuse housing to those without the ‘right to rent’ in the UK.
New figures published by the Home Office reveal the number of landlords fined has more than tripled in just over a year – although the figure still represents only one in 20,000 landlords.
Between April and June this year – the latest statistics available – 76 penalties worth £47,700 were issued. This compared to 14 fines with a total value of £13,800 in the first three months of 2016.
In addition to civil penalties, new criminal sanctions were introduced at the end of last year, meaning landlords could face up to five years in prison and unlimited fines for getting it wrong.
The RLA has warned the government that the checks are creating a climate of fear amongst landlords – and that landlords who have no wish to discriminate are being forced to do so by the scheme.
This means people who have a full right to rent a home in the UK are being disadvantaged, along with others who should be able to access housing.
The RLA found that 43% of landlords 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.
In addition, 63% of landlords are worried that they will make a mistake or be caught out by forged documents and be unfairly fined.
However Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said the scheme is working. He said: “We believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to people here legally but firm with those who break the rules or who enable others to do so.
“We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, local authorities and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
“Landlords can avoid the risk of a civil penalty by conducting simple and straightforward checks on tenants’ documents in accordance with Home Office regulations.”
The RLA runs an online Right to Rent course examining the legislation and its application in detail.
For information and to book click here.