Andrew Parkinson, owner of Parkinson Properties explains how the introduction of the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme will affect you as a landlord.
The Home Office has introduced the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme across England from February 2016. The decision follows the official evaluation of a six month pilot scheme in the West Midlands. The scheme has been met with a mixed response from the private lettings sector, with some groups welcoming the move, and others arguing it is simply an attempt to have lettings agents and landlords act ‘like border control’. Under the new rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ will face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant.
The scheme is being promoted as part of a package of efforts to “create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants”. However concerns have been raised that it may lead to discrimination in the private rental sector against individuals with non-British sounding names or accents by landlords or agents who want to play safe. Although the evaluation of the pilot, carried out in the West Midlands, found no major differences between white and non-white people’s ability to access accommodation, interviews with tenants and landlords found “some areas where there might be a risk of potentially discriminatory behaviour by landlords in a very small number of cases.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: “As the evaluation of its first phase in parts of the West Midlands found, the Right to Rent scheme is not discriminatory. It is based on the simple principle that people in this country illegally should not be able to access the housing and services to the disadvantage of people who are here legally and who play by the rules”.
According to the official Home Office evaluation of the pilot scheme, 109 individuals who were in Britain illegally were identified. Of the 109, nine have already been removed from Britain and five are pending removal, for example in a detention centre or through the assisted voluntary returns process, which offers money and other benefits to go back to their country of origin. Some agents and landlords involved in the scheme raised concern that the rules were only being observed by responsible agents – and that there may be a rogue element in the sector which would continue to ignore the rules. This could lead to a hidden lettings market in which those who are unable to find accommodation within the regulated sector might be driven into.
However, the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), welcomes the move as a step towards weeding out the minority of rogue landlords and agents who bring the sector into disrepute. Parkinson Property’s application process has always included checks on a tenant’s right to be in the UK and will continue to ensure all our landlords are compliant with the new scheme.
Landlords are required to check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies. A range of commonly available documents can be used, including: a UK passport, a European Economic Area passport or identity card, a permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain, a Home Office immigration status document or a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen. If you aren’t sure how Right to Rent will affect your rental property you should study the Home Office website which gives full details.