UK government accused of failing landlords as new immigration policy goes live across England

Dr David Smith
Dr David Smith

Over ninety per cent of landlords have received no information from the UK government on their new legal duty to check the immigration status of their tenants.

A law coming into force today forcing landlords in England to undertake checks on their tenants to ensure they have the right to live in the country follows a recent pilot of the Right to Rent scheme in the West Midlands.

According to a survey of over 1,500 landlords, carried out by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents 40,000 private sector residential landlords in England and Wales, the lack of information from the government is leading to confusion about how landlords are expected to carry out the checks.

The survey found that that 72 per cent of landlords do not understand their obligations under the policy, designed to make the country a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants.

The result will be that many landlords are unlikely to rent to those who cannot easily prove their right of residency. The survey also found that 44 per cent of landlords will only rent to those with documents that are familiar to them: this will cause serious problems for the estimated 17 per cent of UK nationals without a passport. This is likely to be a higher proportion of young people and the less well off.

The RLA is calling on the government to undertake a more thorough evaluation of the impact of this policy, known as ‘Right to Rent’ in the West Midlands where it has been piloted, before rushing into rolling it out across the country.

The evaluation of the pilot scheme noted that there was only “limited evidence” that it was deterring illegal immigrants from seeking to access rental housing.

Commenting, Dr David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “The government argues that it’s ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.

“Landlords are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Fearful of a fine they face two difficult ways forward.

“They can play it safe, and take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport. Alternatively, they may target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism.

“The government’s own evaluation of its pilot scheme noted that there was only limited evidence that the policy is achieving its objectives. Given the considerable problems it will create for tenant-landlord relations it’s time for the government to think again.”

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