Opinion Regulation and Enforcement

Landlords ‘playing it safe’ on right to rent

David Smith
Written by David Smith

This article, by RLA Policy Director David Smith was first published on The Times’ Red Box site

Getting on for half of landlords are now less likely to consider renting to someone without a British passport because of the Government’s Right to Rent policy.

That’s according to a recent survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) of almost 2,800 landlords.

The research found that 42 per cent were reluctant to rent to anyone except those with a UK passport and even more, 49 per cent, are less likely to rent to someone who has permission to stay in the UK for only a limited time.

Under the Right to Rent policy landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants and face prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.

It is little wonder that faced with the threat of prosecution landlords, having been effectively turned into border police, are playing it safe.

Given that according to Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, the foreign-born population is almost three times as likely to be in the private rental sector as UK-born nationals, this policy is actively discriminating against them.

A policy that was designed to make the country a hostile environment for illegal immigrants is also creating a hostile environment for those who do not have a passport. This includes the 17 per cent of legitimate UK residents who do not hold a passport.

Despite assurances from the Government about making allowances, landlords are fearful of being caught out by forged identity documents which are becoming more prolific as a result of the policy.

A recent BBC investigation has found that criminal gangs are helping undocumented immigrants to flout the law by selling them fake identity documents.

It is not just landlords who have concerns. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has described the policy as a “toxic experiment.”

Ministers might have reached some sort of agreement with the EU last week about the status of EU nationals living in the UK, but without legal certainty landlords will not know who they can and cannot rent to and for how long.

It has already been stated by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration that a review of the policy: “will not examine any unintended consequences of Right to Rent, for example discrimination against would-be tenants, increased homelessness, or displacement.”

This is because, it said, it “does not have the capacity” to undertake such work. Without examining all the consequences of the policy, this will make it a meaningless exercise.

Landlords cannot be blamed for being cautious when the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over them and they do not have the knowledge or experience to act as border control officers.

The result is that Right to Rent is making it very difficult for many to access housing they want.

The Home Office should suspend the scheme pending a full and detailed assessment of its impact on tenants and prospective tenants.

About the author

David Smith

David Smith

David Smith is the Policy Director for the RLA and a Partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors. David obtained his degree and doctorate from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in International relations before re-qualifying as a lawyer. He is known for his expertise in residential landlord and tenant law and has advised the Welsh Assembly, local government, and numerous landlords and tenants of all sizes.

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