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More than 400 fines have been issued since the Right to Rent immigration checks were introduced two years ago. Under the scheme, landlords and agents have to find out if a tenant has a legal right to be in the country. Effectively, it means landlords are doing the jobs of immigration officers. Up to the end of March this year, 405 fines had been handed out for Right to Rent violations, for a total amount of £265,000. Whilst these fines have been issued, a report published in March shows no-one has actually been prosecuted. Official data on Right to Rent fines, which have been analysed by the Press Association, show the number of people fined increased consecutively for the first six quarters since its introduction. Since June last year, the number of fines has dropped.

When considering whether to take on a tenant, landlords have to take copies of documents such as passports or ID cards to prove they have the right to stay in the UK. They risk being penalised if it is found out that they have let their property to someone who is living unlawfully in the UK. In many cases, it has been found that landlords are actually reluctant to let property to people from outside the UK if they cannot establish that they are here legally. For instance, the documents may turn out to be false, which would mean landlords have breached the Right to Rent requirements. They can face fines of up to £3,000 for each tenant. If they are found to have knowingly rented a property to an illegal or unlawful immigrant, they can also face criminal proceedings, with the prospect of up to five years in prison. This, understandably, has acted as a deterrent. it also means that many innocent people are finding it harder to rent property. They may be UK citizens but do not have a passport or they may be foreign citizens but the landlord cannot prove they are genuine residents.

However, the scheme has come under the spotlight following the Windrush scandal in which people who have lived and worked in the UK for decades have been wrongly challenged concerning their immigration status. Since the Windrush incident, the Home Office has issued guidance to say that any prospective tenants who have lived permanently in the UK since before 1973 and who have not spent long periods abroad in the past 30 years have the right to rent properties. The Home Secretary has announced that there will be a review of historic cases to see if anyone from Caribbean Commonwealth countries who has been in the UK since before 1973 has been caught up in these measures.

The National Landlords Association has called on the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to review the Right to Rent ruling. NLA director of policy and practice, Chris Norris, said it had to be remembered that landlords are not immigration experts or border agents. The Right to Rent scheme means additional expense for the buy-to-let investors while these excessive checks could have had a detrimental effect on would-be or vulnerable tenants.

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