A leading trade body says EU citizens living in the UK run the risk of losing their rental homes without swift confirmation of what their status will be after Brexit.
An analysis of government data by the Residential Landlords Association suggests that 66 per cent of EU nationals, excluding those from the Republic of Ireland, live in private rented housing.
Under the 2014 Immigration Act all EU nationals automatically have the right to rent property in the UK and the RLA says that unless the law is changed, this will continue to be the case whether they are currently in the UK or come to this country after Brexit.
The association says without “swift clarity” landlords and agents will not know if they should continue tenancies coming up for renewal or agree new ones for EU nationals.
The RLA is also calling on the government to issue guidance as a matter of urgency on the rights that EU nationals will have to rent property both before and after the UK leaves the EU, including under a no deal Brexit.
It is calling also for a commitment that no changes will be made to their right to rent without at least 18 months’ notice to give landlords and tenants plenty of time to prepare.
Under the government’s right to rent policy, landlords face the threat of potential criminal sanctions where 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.
“Landlords and tenants need urgent clarification from the government on the rights that EU nationals will have to rent property immediately after the UK leaves the EU, especially in the event of a no deal Brexit” explains RLA policy director David Smith.
“Without this, and without a commitment that no changes will be made to the ability of EU citizens to rent property without at least 18 months’ notice, landlords will find themselves unable to decide if tenancies should be renewed and new ones created for EU citizens. We need clarity as swiftly as possible” he adds.
The RLA is writing to Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, to raise its concerns over the issue.
Yesterday it was announced that a High Court challenge to the right to rent policy will be heard a week before Christmas; the challenge is being led by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants with the support of the RLA.
Now the JCWI chief executive, Satbir Singh, says on the Brexit problem: “The government’s refusal to give EU citizens who apply for settled status a document proving their right to live in the UK after Brexit is incomprehensible. Particularly in light of the hostile environment that requires landlords to check their tenants immigration status.
“JCWI’s research demonstrates that landlords will not go through complex immigration checks, online forms, or telephone helplines to check up on someone’s status, when they could just rent to someone with a British passport instead.
“Landlords cannot be expected to act as border guards, and to ask them to do so is to play with the lives and livelihoods of immigrants and ethnic minorities. It must stop.”