Landlords must check the immigration status of new tenants from today under controversial new rules set out by the Government.They must establish residents have a right to be in the country by asking for documents such as passports or identity cards and taking copies. Those who don’t face fines of up to £3,000 per tenant. Right to Rent, which also applies to those who sublet their property or take in lodgers, initially took place in the West Midlands after it was launched in 2014 as part of immigration reforms.
However, figures obtained by law firm Simpson Millar show less than a dozen fines were given out during the 12-month pilot. Six fines were issued to landlords of properties in Birmingham, two in Sandwell and one in Dudley. The pilot covered the city of Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. According to the Home Office, objections were received in two of the nine cases, but none of those resulted in a reduction of the fine. The total value of fines came to £9,480 and no fines were issued to letting agents, managing agents or estate agents. Just £4,057 had been collected by the end of November 2015, Simpson Millar says. Immigration lawyer Sumita Gupta has criticised the Right to Rent scheme for having “little impact but the potential to cause significant fear and hardship for migrant groups.” She adds: “Given that the pilot covered an area with more than 2 million people it is hard to see how the scheme has had any significant financial impact at all. Rather, it has the potential to create a culture of fear and discrimination.” Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said: “These rules could lead to widespread discrimination and Theresa May should scrap them immediately.There’s a real danger the checks could become the modern equivalent of the “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs in windows and make Britain a more hostile place for anyone with a foreign-sounding name.”
The Home Office said the roll-out of Right to Rent has been informed by input from a panel of experts from trade bodies, local authorities, housing charities and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.To avoid a fine, or discriminating against tenants, landlords, agencies and sub-letters must make themselves familiar with the Home Office Code of Practice relating to the Right to Rent. Existing tenancy agreements are not affected and the scheme takes effect now across England. The Home Office has published codes of practice including guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination.
James Brokenshire, Immigration Minister, said many landlords already carry out simple identity checks “as a matter of good practice”. He said: “We firmly believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to those here legally, but firm with those who try to break the rules. That is why Right to Rent is so important. Over the past year, we have taken time to engage with the people who will be affected by the scheme, and carried out a thorough evaluation.The system we have designed is light-touch, and allows those with a legitimate right to be in the country to quickly and easily demonstrate their right to rent.”