Tenants without a British passport could find it harder to rent a property in the UK. Research by the Residential Landlords Association shows 42% of landlords say they are reluctant to rent to anyone who does not have a British passport. Following the findings, the RLA has called for a review of the Right to Rent scheme, because of its negative effect on tenants.
Landlords now have to check all new tenants can legally rent a property in England. All tenants aged 18 and over must be checked, even if they are not named in the tenancy agreement or there is no tenancy agreement. If the tenant is only allowed to remain in the UK for a short time, then the check needs to be done in the 28 days before the tenancy starts. All tenants have to show original documents proving they have the right to live in the UK. Under Right to Rent, landlords are responsible for verifying the immigration status of tenants. They can be prosecuted if it is found out that they know or should have known that their property is being used by someone who cannot legally rent it.
It is causing problems because foreign-born UK residents are nearly three times more likely to be living in private rental accommodation rather than their own home. Also, 17% of UK residents do not have a British passport, which has caused the RLA to express concern about their welfare in the rental sector. In October, a review of Right to Rent was announced, but it will not look into circumstances such as a bias against potential tenants or increased homelessness.
David Smith, RLA policy director, said the figures prove their argument that the Right to Rent system would cause problems for legal tenants who do not have proof of identity. A lot of landlords are being cautious and turning away such tenants because they do not want to face criminal charges. Mr Smith said that it is a travesty that a policy has been introduced which makes it more difficult for people to legally access homes. This is particularly damaging given the scale of the housing crisis. He called it ‘absurd’ to review the scheme without probing the effect it is having. For this reason, the RLA is calling on the government to suspend the scheme until a full appraisal of its effect on all tenants or would-be tenants is carried out.
Mr Smith added that the policy was designed to make the country a hostile environment for illegal immigrants, but it is also causing untold problems for potential tenants without passports. Although ministers have reached an agreement with the EU about the status of EU nationals living in the UK after Brexit, landlords need the legal certainty of who they can rent to and for how long.
It is natural for landlords and letting agencies to be wary, particularly as the sanctions are so severe. But it does not seem right that they should be acting as immigration officers by carrying out such checks.