Britons without a passport are struggling under the new Right-to-Rent rules to rent because of these immigration checks and landlords are nervous about letting to them.
Under the new rules landlords must see a photo ID document such as a passport or driver’s licence before they can rent to a potential tenant. The problem is that many low-income tenants have neither and are not likely to be in a position to get one either.
A recent landlord survey shows that around 43% of private landlords think the right to rent scheme has made them reluctant to let their properties to tenants without a UK passport. It is estimated that around 17% of UK citizens do not have a passport, so in a competitive letting market these people may lose out when it comes to securing a desirable rental.
According to a The Guardian newspaper report, almost two-thirds of private landlords said they were reluctant to let to those migrants who are legally entitled to stay in Britain, but for a limited time only. Others, around 56% said they were much less likely to let to someone from outside Europe.
The survey which has been carried out by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), that represents upwards of 20,000 landlords in England and Wales, was carried out to assess the impact of the right to rent scheme introduced across England. The scheme which was introduced in England in February this year is yet to be introduced in Scotland or Wales.
Landlords who fail to check that potential tenants have a right to reside in Britain face being a fined up to £3,000 per tenant. From December 1st it will be made a criminal offence to knowingly rent to people without permission to be in the UK, so landlords doing so will face a prison sentence.
It has been reported by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford that foreign-born residents are almost three times more likely to rent than UK nationals. Of the landlords surveyed, two-thirds said they are worried they would make a mistake or be caught out by forged documents, and be unfairly punished.
Dave Smith, the RLA policy director, said:
“These survey findings confirm our fears. Those who cannot easily prove their right to live in the UK, whether they are British or not, are finding it harder to access homes to rent. This is particularly concerning for those UK nationals without a passport, many of them the most vulnerable in society.
“Landlords are quite reasonably becoming ultra cautious to avoid tough criminal sanctions and need reassurance that they will not be punished when they get fooled by false documents. They are not trained immigration officers.”
Landlords will be even more cautious when the right to rent checks are subject to criminal charges.
Mr Smith has called on the government to provide more clarity on the status of EU nationals living in Britain. The RLA says it wants to see reassurance that any landlord caught out with forged documents will not face sanctions.
The Home Office has said landlords “are not being asked to be immigration officers”, that it is recognised that not all citizens hold passports and that information on government websites shows that an extensive a range of documents are acceptable to satisfy these simple checks.
The immigration minister Robert Goodwill said:
“We are working to deliver an immigration system which is fair to those here legally and firm with those who try to break the rules. Following a pilot of the Right to Rent scheme, we have fully involved landlords and tenants ahead of its national roll out.
“We have made crystal clear that landlords will only be prosecuted if they knowingly rent to illegal migrants and that we will not criminalise those who have simply made a mistake or been misled by forged documents,” he added.
Passport-less Tenants having difficulties renting https://t.co/dpuQFueTRL
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) November 23, 2016