Following the introduction of Right-to-Rent checks in England just over 12 months ago (1st February 2016) the fines are beginning to stack-up against landlords who failed to follow the new rules.
Figures just released by the Press Association reveal that financial penalties totalling £37,000 were handed out over a period of eight months after the roll-out of the scheme.
In order to comply with the law on Right-to-Rent checks landlords and agents simply need to check original documents face-to-face with the tenant before signing a tenancy agreement to make sure the tenant has a right to reside in the country.
I addition, a copy of the documents (passport, visa etc) must be made and retained for the period of the tenancy and 12 months after the tenant leaves. Should a tenant’s right to reside not last for the period of the tenancy, the landlord must re-check, and this also applies to tenant minors who become adult at 18 during a tenancy.
Most credit reference agencies doing tenant checks include a Right-to-Rent check in their assessment, but this does not absolve the landlord or agent from the need to carefully check the original documents.
The fines listed and released to-date were issued to 62 landlords between the start of February and end of September last year.
Failure to comply with the rules on this can lead to fines of up to £3,000 per tenant, and where it can be shown that someone knowingly rents to people with no right to reside, they face up to five years in prison.
These Home Office figures on civil penalties ranging from £80 to £3,000 and issued for letting to tenants or lodgers without the right to reside were provided following a Freedom of Information request.
Thirty-six of the penalties related to lodgers in private households, while the rest (26) were given to landlords involved in private rented accommodation.
The Right to Rent legislation has proved a controversial measure, with campaigners claiming it leads to discrimination. To date, out of 654 individuals who have been brought to the authorities’ attention through this, 31 have actually been removed from the UK.
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, has said:
a small number of landlords have been penalised as a result of the scheme so far, with an average fine of £260 handed out in conjunction with these cases.
“This probably suggests that landlords are accidentally falling foul of the law, rather than deliberately or maliciously breaking the rules.
“It’s important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents, so with time, education and the right support, we’d hope that these kinds of cases begin to diminish.
“However, ultimately this scheme should be judged on whether it tackles or prevents those who knowingly ignore the law and let to people who are in the UK illegally, but so far there’s little evidence to suggest it is having the desired effect.”
A Home Office spokeswoman has said:
“We believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to people here legally but firm with those who break the rules.
“Right to Rent deters people from staying in the UK when they have no right to do so. We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, such as local authorities, landlords and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
“This ensures that levels of awareness are good and that checks are being routinely carried out. Where illegal migrants are found to be renting property, we are taking action.”
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