A lawyer has raised the spectre of letting agents and landlords possibly facing accusation of discrimination when the government’s Right To Rent immigration checks are rolled out.
“Given the large number of different documents which can prove a person’s permission to be in the UK, there are concerns over whether landlords or letting agents will have the expertise to carry out the checks properly” warns Mark Lilley-Tams, an associate solicitor at Paragon Law.
“There are also concerns that landlords or letting agents will become subject to discrimination claims if they wrongly refuse to rent a property to tenants on immigration grounds” he says.
The Immigration Act 2014 obliges agents and landlords in the West Midlands to carry out document checks and keep records to identify if a potential tenant has the right to reside in the UK. Where an agent has accepted responsibility for compliance with the new rules, the agent will be the ‘liable party’ in place of the landlord.
The coalition government, in power before the May 7 election, introduced the measures into one pilot region of Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton last December, promising a roll out across the UK in 2015.
It is currently understood that an evaluation process is underway by the government prior to a firm announcement about roll-out.
The rules for the pilot in the West Midlands obliged agents to check the status of would-be tenants for all new tenancy agreements. In most cases this was believed to have involved checking the tenant's passport or biometric residents permit; appropriate records need to be kept for up to 12 months after the tenancy ends. Agents or landlords were able to request a check using an online form, which provided answers within two working days.
The new rules applied to individuals taking in lodgers and also applied to tenants who sub-let properties. Failure to abide by the regulations risked a £3,000 fine.