Many rental management companies and landlords were rightly dismayed when it was announced that they would have to check the immigration status of prospective and existing tenants. They argue that it adds bureaucracy, is time-consuming and is putting the onus on them to check the residency status of tenants, which is not what they signed up for.
The greatest pressure is on landlords who could face a jail sentence or a hefty fine of up to £3,000 for each tenant who is renting property but cannot produce the correct paperwork to prove his or her status.
The Right To Rent scheme was piloted in the West Midlands and has now been rolled out across England on February 1, despite its flaws. Surely it is a police or immigration services matter to check for illegal immigrants?
Now it appears that the additional work is also leading to claims of discrimination. Even when the scheme was trialled in the Midlands, it raised alarm bells that some rental firms were unwilling to conduct business with people who did not have a British passport.
After all, why risk the threat of jail or fines because of the new Right To Rent policy?
An interesting article by Tim Fallon MP in the International Business Times illustrated some of the problems that arose during the pilot scheme.
A survey by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants showed that 42 per cent of landlords were believe to be reticent to rent out their properties to people who did not have a British passport. The survey also indicated that more than one-quarter would feel less likely to rent their property to people with a foreign name or accent.
These statistics are startling when you consider the number of potential tenants it may affect, many of whom could be moving house because of work, for educational opportunities or because they have newly arrived in Britain.
Mr Fallon’s article also reveals that the Crisis national homeless charity had warned that innocent people could be made homeless because of these measures. The Government’s own report also found that the pilot scheme led to discrimination. So surely something should have been done about it?
Certainly no-one is blaming the rental companies which clearly do not want to fall foul of the law. But the pilot scheme has highlighted major problems, irrespective of which the Government still decided to roll the scheme out nationwide.
It remains to be seen just how many people are refused housing because of this and what subsequently becomes of them.