The government’s Right to Rent scheme, which meant landlords and letting agents had to prove the immigration status of tenants, has been criticised from the start. The controversial scheme saw landlords and their agents effectively acting as immigration officers. They had to prove that a prospective tenant had a legal right to be in the UK or face criminal sanctions if they were found to be unwittingly letting to illegal immigrants. Now the ruling is being challenged, in two legal bids by the Camden Community Law Centre and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
The CCLC is representing a woman who alleges that the Home Office lost her passport and so she failed the Right to Rent check. The JCWI is bringing about a judicial review of the Home Office ruling. The scheme was set up in February 2016 with landlords or agents facing civil action – and hefty fines – if they were found to be letting to tenants who did not have a legal right to live in the UK. Last year, the sanctions became more severe, with criminal action being put in place. It is yet another piece of bureaucracy placed on landlords who have to check and verify the identification of all would-be tenants. This includes British people who may not have ID, such as a passport or driving licence. The scheme has been heavily criticised as it effectively sees landlords and agents acting as the UK’s border control. The landlords were also tasked with having to try to identify fake passports or ID. The JCWI warned that the scheme has led to 51% of landlords being more reluctant to take on foreign nationals as tenants. It also makes it difficult for the 17% of UK residents without a passport to rent a home.
Now, these two cases are challenging the ruling, and they are being supported by the Residential Landlords Association. RLA policy director, David Smith, said the association warned the government about the potential consequences of its Right to Rent scheme. It pointed out that landlords cannot be expected to know what the passport in different countries is supposed to look like. Landlords are now playing it safe because of the fear of criminal sanctions if they make the wrong decision. This is affecting a large section of the prospective tenant market, which many professional landlords are having to ignore because of the government scheme. It does not make good business sense for landlords, nor does it help foreign nationals who are looking for decent property to rent.
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