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Report slams ‘right to rent’ checks

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has released a report on its assessment of the new requirement for landlords to establish whether tenants have a “right to rent” in the UK before granting a tenancy. The report is highly critical of the pilot scheme; JCVI’s evaluation uncovered a number of worrying direct and indirect impacts of these checks on both tenants and landlords.

The changes, introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and piloted in the West Midlands, are an element of the government’s plan to create a ‘hostile environment” for migrants who are here without the necessary permissions.  Landlords who rent property to people without these permissions face penalty fines.  

In May 2015, David Cameron announced plans to roll this pilot out nationwide and to make changes to allow landlords to evict migrants who are here illegally more easily.

Difficulties for those who don’t hold a British passport

42% of landlords surveyed said that the new requirements have made them less likely to consider granting a tenancy to someone who does not have a British passport.  27% are reluctant to engage with those with foreign names or accents.  The checks are not being carried out universally.  Rather, those applicant who appear “foreign” are being asked to evidence their ‘right to rent’.   

I do not accept most of the documents in the list as I could produce most of them on my laser printer.  Therefore, no passport equals no home!  As I don’t know how to tell if a non-UK passport is valid, I would try to choose someone with a UK passport.  Survey response from landlord

50% of respondents who had been refused a tenancy felt that discrimination was a factor in the landlord’s decision.  65% of landlords stated that they would be less likely to consider tenants who cannot provide documents immediately.  As 17.5% of the UK population does not own a passport this could potentially mean that these checks make it more difficult for even British citizens to find suitable tenancies.

Understanding the requirements

The Government issued guidance to assist landlords who were carrying out these checks.  However, 65% of the landlords in the JCVI sample had not read of fully understood the “Code of Practice on preventing illegal immigration” or the “Code of Practice on Avoiding Discrimination”.  

In Liverpool, a Syrian tenant was asked to leave his flat share by his landlord because he had heard of the immigration checks and he didn’t want any bother so simply evicted him.  The tenant tried to explain that he had every right to rent a property but the landlord would not listen.  From submission by Generation Rent

57% of landlords nationwide and 40% in the pilot area feel that they have not effectively understood the Right to Rent changes or remain unaware of them.  56% of tenants in the pilot area are unaware of the scheme.  Many of these tenants were unaware how to prepare for the checks and would not necessarily have their documentation to hand if asked to present this when applying for a tenancy.

Concerns about roll out

The JCVWI report indicated that the pilot has not been successful.  44% of tenants within the pilot area had not been asked for identity documents.  Evidence suggests that the checks are predominantly targeted at those who appear “foreign” and that the checks are fostering discriminatory practices, despite the government’s codes of practice.  

In addition, the report suggests that the costs of administering these checks are being passed on to tenants, making the cost of finding a new tenancy even more prohibitive for many.  Some partner organisations have even suggested to the JCWI that unscrupulous landlords may be increasing the rent or deposits or charging for repairs in order to offset any potential fine for renting to someone without the necessary permissions.

When asked, 69% of landlords surveyed felt that they should not be made to undertake these checks.  77% of landlords surveyed are not in favour of a national rollout.  

Full report

The full report, including detail on the methodology and JCWI’s recommendations is available from the JCWI website.

Tagged In

Minority Groups, Research, Private Tenancies, Landlord

This article was written on 8 September 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.