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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Property law expert joins criticism of Right To Rent's 'Windrush failure'

A leading property disputes solicitor has joined a growing chorus of criticism of how Right To Rent will cope with issues thrown up by the Windrush controversy over Caribbean citizens who are British but lack some or possibly all official paperwork.

Robin Stewart - a solicitor in the housing and property disputes department of the Anthony Gold law practice, and a contributor to RICS documents - says in a blog on the Anthony Gold website that the government’s attempt to hastily update guidelines on Right To Rent will not be sufficient to make problems go away.

Under the new guidance - which has also been described as “lacking clarity” by the Residential Landlords’ Association - agents and landlords are told that if they have a prospective tenant lacking evidence to prove they have the right to rent, they should contact a dedicated unit in the Home Office, possibly via a new Windrush helpline.

“This guidance fails to address what is a complex problem” warns Stewart, who says that the current Landlords Checking Service within the Home Office is expected to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to cases put before it within two working days. 

“It seems likely that for the foreseeable future the LCS will have been instructed to give a ‘yes’ response to any queries relating to former Commonwealth citizens” predicts Stewart, who adds that in London in particular “the market moves so fast that waiting two working days for a response will mean that the tenancy is granted to someone else.” 

In addition, he anticipates that the guidance update - posted on the government’s website in the middle of last week - will not, in any case, be widely read. 

“The problems of discrimination caused by landlords trying to ‘play it safe’ will continue” he warns. 

To cap it all, he says that the Home Office has also not updated its tool for landlords or agents to check . 

“Inputting answers relating to a Commonwealth citizen who arrived in the UK in the early 1970s but has no documents produced this answer: ‘The Person can’t rent your property because they haven’t shown you documents to prove their right to rent. If the person is already renting your property, you must report them to the Home Office. You can read the landlord’s code of practice on making checks for more information.’”

Stewart says the real answer is a radical redesign of the scheme in its entirety, and without that he fears “discrimination by landlords and agents appear to be inevitable consequence of Right to Rent - the ‘Windrush generation’ will not be the only ones affected.”

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