There has been a mixed response from the private rental industry following the announcement that Right To Rent checks will become mandatory in England from February 1.
The Residential Landlords' Association says the assessment of the West Midlands pilot Right To Rent project shows only “limited evidence” that "illegal migrants’ access to the private rental sector…was being restricted.” This fact, and other detailed results from the investigation into the pilot, "confirms the Residential Landlord Association’s long held fear that those, mostly vulnerable UK nationals, without any form of photo identification will find it close to impossible to access rental housing" according to a statement from the RLA.
The association's policy director, David Smith, says: “The Government has long argued that its Right to Rent scheme is about making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to settle in the UK. [The] Home Office assessment of its own pilot scheme blows a hole through this.
“The report also highlights the very real danger of legitimate UK nationals being unable to access housing because they do not have photo ID. It is premature to be announcing the date that the scheme will roll out across England without first giving enough time to consider in full the findings of this report.”
The National Landlords’ Association says that with three months only before implementation, it’s vital for the sector to familiarise itself with provisions.
Meanwhile ARLA is more supportive of the government.
"The pilot was a success and we are pleased that letting agents reported that the scheme actually assisted, rather than hindered, their own ID checks. The roll out will continue to help to weed out the minority of rogue landlords who exploit vulnerable immigrants for their own financial gain – as seen during the pilot scheme. The Immigration Bill 2015 will further develop these plans when passed next year, through harsher penalties (including criminal offences), aimed at those landlords and unregulated agents that aren’t complying with basic laws" says David Cox, managing director of ARLA.
Under the new rules, landlords in England who fail to check a potential tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ will face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant. No details have yet been released for the roll out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The new law will mean that private landlords in England, including those who sub-let or take in lodgers, must check the right of prospective tenants to be in the country to avoid being hit with a penalty.
Right to Rent was introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s reforms to build a fairer and more effective immigration system.
The first phase was launched in parts of the West Midlands and caused controversy from many industry players who saw it as a move by the government to ask landlords and letting agents to act, effectively, as border control.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire says the phased introduction of Right to Rent, was to allow time to assess how the measures work in practice and to carry out the evaluation.
A panel including the Equality and Human Rights Commission as well as representatives of landlords and letting agents, local authorities, and homelessness charity Crisis, has worked with government on the evaluation.
Under Right to Rent, landlords should check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies. This includes checking a UK passport, a European Economic Area passport or identity card, a permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain, a Home Office immigration status document or a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.