Right to rent: unfair to landlords and tenants?
Should landlords be expected to act as border control officials when renting to a new tenant? This is the question that a Judicial Review of the government?s controversial Right to Rent policy, which obliges landlords to undertake immigration checks on prospective tenants, will be asking as it gets underway today.
The Right to Rent scheme was rolled out nationwide in 2016, meaning that landlords must now check the immigration status of would-be tenants. Understandably, this initiative has proved really unpopular. Landlords are already under pressure from government (see my blog Landlords under fire, posted on 11 December) and certainly don?t want to take on responsibility for ensuring that tenants have a legitimate right to rent a home.
When the scheme came into effect, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) thought it was so potentially discriminatory that it put forward ? and won ? a legal challenge, gaining the right to launch a High Court case against the Home Office. As I write this blog, a full hearing is taking place before the High Court today and tomorrow.
The JCWI?s legal challenge is being supported by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) which has carried out research among landlords to find out how they feel about the scheme. The RLA found that, as a result of the Right to Rent policy, 44% are now less likely to rent to someone without a British passport , mainly because they are scared they may be prosecuted if they get something wrong. Landlords also say that, as a result of Brexit and the continuing uncertainty around the future status of EU nationals in Britain, they are now less likely to rent property to anyone from the EU or the European Economic Area.
According to Landlord Today, the RLA is calling for Right to Rent to be scrapped, arguing that it discriminates against those unable to easily prove their identity and foreign-born nationals who have documents unfamiliar to landlords. It is also calling for urgent guidance for landlords to be issued by the government, explaining clearly the rights of EU citizens to rent property, especially in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
The whole situation is reminiscent of the Windrush scandal that came to light earlier this year. Landlords are not government officials and shouldn?t be expected to act on behalf of the Home Office or to make a judgement call around who is and isn?t legally entitled to rent a property. Landlords are under enough pressure from excessive taxation and a new raft of regulations without being expected to act as immigration officers too.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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