A scheme to have landlords carry out checks for “Right-to-Rent” has resulted in seven landlords being caught renting homes to illegal immigrants.
A pilot scheme launched in the midlands last December has, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), proved a success and is expected to be rolled out nationally within the next few months.
The scheme, which is being piloted in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall, and Birmingham, requires landlords to inspect documents which determine the residency status of all prospective tenants. Failure to comply will result in fines of up to £3,000.
Following the growing immigration crisis in Calais the government has announced a clampdown on rogue landlords who rent to illegals which could result in jail sentences and a ban on future involvement in letting property. It is also suggested that the law may be changed to allow instant evictions for illegals.
When the scheme is eventually rolled out nationally, landlords will need to be aware of the various documents which they can use to determine identity and residency status, with Home Office help, and will need to be careful not to breach the discrimination laws: all tenants will have to be checked in the same way, including those who appear to be UK born.
The pilot scheme is currently in its evaluation stage by the Home Office, which is also tasked with the process of returning people to their country of origin to tie in with Right-to-Rent checks.
David Cox, MD of Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), said feedback from their members in pilot areas had been very positive.
“Conducting ID checks on tenants has been in our code of practice for years, though some tenants have been unwilling to show passports and visa documentation. Now it’s the law, it makes things easier for landlords and their agents.”
Others have claimed the pilot has largely been a failure, and investigations by The Economist and The Guardian newspaper have discovered that the seven landlords’ fines have been just £800 each, and that only around half of those tenants looking for rental accommodation in the pilot area since the scheme’s introduction have been properly assessed under the legislation as having a right to rent or stay in the UK.
There investigations discovered that the pilot scheme may have encouraged some landlords to discriminate against prospective tenants from overseas. The Guardian reports a mystery shopping exercise found non-Britons were blocked from renting properties on 11 out of 27 occasions.
Questions also remain though about how these lasted government suggestions on quick evictions will work in practice.
It’s currently a criminal offence to remove tenants without a court order. Obtaining that order can take months and a bailiff is needed to actually evict tenants, usually taking a further few weeks. Just how this new measure announced by Mr Brokenshaw will work is unclear.
The whole thing raises many questions: who pays for the eviction which, could be costly and very time consuming? What happens to the evicted illegal immigrants, will they just disappear? Will the process comply with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family and private life? What if children are involved?
Communities Secretary Greg Clark has said that cases involving tenants that refuse to move out will still end up in court but that the process would be quicker as landlords will have official Home Office evidence to present to the court.
When asked if evicting a tenant would not just result in them disappearing, unless they were handed to the police, Mr Clark said the new initiative was part of “joined-up system to send people home”.
See “New measures to crackdown on illegal immigrants renting properties” – here
Scheme to carry out “Right-to-Rent” checks, results in 7 prosecutions for renting to illegal immigrants – http://t.co/O1QqHPGoXZ
— LandlordZONE® (@LandlordZONE) August 13, 2015