Right to rent to roll out across UK in February

Landlords across the UK will have to check the immigration status of new tenants from February next year, the Home Office has announced.

The Right to Rent scheme, which requires private landlords to check tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out a property, was introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s immigration reforms. The program was launched on a trial basis in the West Midlands to assess how the measures would work in practice.

Indeed, there is some concern that the scheme could lead to discrimination against those with foreign-sounding names looking for somewhere to live. The government insists that this is not the case.

“At an overall level there did not appear to be major differences for White British and [blacn and other minority ethnic tenants] in accessing accommodation,” concluded an official evaluation of the pilot scheme.

Under right to rent, landlords should check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies. The checks are also backed up by codes of practice – including guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination which was drawn up with the assistance of the Human Rights Commission.

Some in the industry, though, remain unconvinced.

Matt Hutchinson, director of flat and house share site SpareRoom.co.uk says:
“Asking homeowners taking in lodgers to be responsible for checking their immigration status is, frankly, ridiculous.

“However much government insists this won’t lead to discrimination against those who don’t have British passports, it’s bound to happen.”

“The other worry is that tenants from overseas will be pushed towards the lower levels of the rental market where the least scrupulous landlords operate. Many of these landlords ignore legislation anyway so the problem isn’t being tackled, just moved away from more affluent areas and into the underground economy.”

There will be penalties for those who do not comply with the new checks, though. Under the new rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s “Right to Rent” will face a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire says: “Right to rent checks are quick and simple, and many responsible landlords already do them as a matter of routine. We are providing landlords in England with all the advice and support they need before the checks go live on 1 February 2016.

“The new rules are part of the Immigration Act 2014 which introduced measures to reform the immigration system. Right to rent is about deterring those who are illegally resident from remaining in the UK. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected.”