Regulation and Enforcement

Right to Rent not working  

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Right to rent checks are not working, with more and more landlords afraid to rent to those without British passports, according to a new report.

The paper by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) produced with assistance from the RLA, shows that the Government’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is creating a climate of fear amongst landlords.

The charity is calling on the government to abandon the scheme – a call echoed by the RLA which predicted such issues from the start.

Landlords fear being heavily fined or even imprisoned if they fail to fully comply with the Right to Rent scheme, which requires them to check prospective tenants’ immigration status and refuse housing to those without the ‘right to rent’ in the UK.

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

It claims the scheme creates ‘structural incentives’ for landlords to discriminate unlawfully against foreigners and ethnic minorities.

The findings reflect research carried out by the RLA in November last year in which 43% of landlords 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.

The potential punishment that landlords face – up to five years in prison and unlimited fines – combined with the complexity of the immigration checks they  must undertake, means that in some cases they are pushed into choosing tenants who feel like a ‘safer bet’ because they hold a British passport.

This is despite the fact that 17% of British citizens do not hold a passport.

It also warns the scheme, currently in force in England and poised for imminent roll-out in Wales, does not contain adequate safeguards against discrimination, adequate mechanisms to monitor discrimination, or any form of redress for victims of discrimination.

RLA Chairman Alan Ward said: “With 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.

“We share JCWI concerns over document discrimination and these findings reflect issues that the Residential Landlords Association 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.

“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.”

Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, added: “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. It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage.”

According to the most Government figures just 91 landlords have been issued with civil penalties since the right to rent scheme was rolled out on February 1st last year.

For more information on the RLA’s immigration and right to rent courses, which examine the legislation and its application in detail, using practical examples to show how the rules work click here.

To access the RLA right to rent guide click here.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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