Government’s Right to Rent Scheme Under Review

Right to Rent Scheme

Government’s Right to Rent Scheme Under Review

As a landlord, what are your views on the current Right to Rent regulations?

A recent survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has found that 44% of private landlords are less likely to allow those without a British passport to rent their properties.

Last year, this figure sat at 42%, so it has seen a slight increase. This research has been undertaken, as today the High Court has begun a judicial review of the Government’s flagship Right to Rent scheme.

It was in 2016 that the scheme first came into effect nationwide, as part of the ‘hostile environment’ strategy for illegal immigrants. This was introduced by Theresa May, during her time as Home Secretary.

These regulations hold landlords accountable for ensuring that their tenants have the required immigration status to rent in the UK.

There is a prospect of prosecution for those who know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is being occupied by someone who does not have the right to remain within the UK.

The RLA has made a move to intervene in today’s judicial review, led by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI). It is argued by both organisations that this policy discriminates against foreign nationals, especially those who are unable to easily prove that they have the right to remain in this country.

Due to an overriding fear of “getting things wrong”, 53% of landlords are now less likely to grant tenancies to those with a limited time left in the country. This is up from 49% in 2017.

Brexit is unsurprisingly taking its toll on the private rental sector (PRS), with 20% of landlords saying that they feel less likely to consider letting their property to EU or EEA nationals, which is up from 17% last year.

Earlier this year, David Bolt, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, stated in a report that Right to Rent has “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office is “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”

It has been suggested by academics at Oxford University that the foreign-born population is almost three times as likely to be in the PRS, compared to the UK-born population.

So, is it time for the Right to Rent policy to be scrapped completely? The RLA believes it is time, arguing that it discriminates against those unable to easily prove their identity and foreign-born nationals who have different documents to what landlords are used to seeing.

The RLA also believes that it is time for the Government to provide urgent guidance, providing clear information for landlords about EU citizens’ rights to rent property, especially in the event of a no deal Brexit.

David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA has commented: “The Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who are legitimately in the UK but may have documentation that is not easy to understand for landlords. It creates needless friction between landlords and tenants. Landlords cannot be blamed for taking a cautious approach as they are not immigration officers.

“It is a policy that clearly leads to discrimination against certain groups and needs to be brought to an end. Despite promises from the Home Office little progress has been made and this is reflected in figures.

“Also the Government has so far failed to provide any single document providing clear advice to landlords about the rights of EU nationals to rent property in the event of a no deal Brexit. It is leaving many with a sense of frustration as they do not know if they should renew tenancies and create new ones.”

Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director for Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “Sajid Javid promised he would learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal, which left many thousands of legal immigrants to the UK destitute, detained, and even deported. But he is ignoring the clear evidence, further reinforced by today’s new RLA findings, that requiring landlords to check immigration status does not work and causes exactly the kinds of problems that the Windrush generation faced.

“Not only is he ignoring our evidence, he is fighting us in court to stop the Home Office from being required to do its own evaluation into whether the scheme is harming ethnic minorities and foreign nationals with every right to rent property. He is ignoring the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s recommendations to do the same.

“This is extraordinarily intrusive red tape that conscripts landlords as border officials on pain of imprisonment, and Sajid Javid won’t even check that it’s working as planned. He has clearly learnt nothing from Theresa May and Amber Rudd’s mistakes.”

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