Foreign nationals and Britons without a passport are struggling to rent due to immigration checks introduced last year, according to a new survey.
A report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) reveals that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are being discriminated against in the private rental housing market as a result of the Right to Rent scheme designed to crack down on irregular immigration.
Just over half - 51% - of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals, while 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanction.
Somewhat worryingly, an enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords in a mystery shopping exercise, following the introduction of the Right to Rent scheme, introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s reforms to build a ‘fairer and more effective’ immigration system.
From 1 February 2016, all private landlords in England have been required to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property.
Under existing rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant, and a maximum five years imprisonment.
The law means that private landlords, including those who sub-let or take in lodgers must now check the right of prospective tenants to be in the country to avoid being hit with a penalty.
Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, said: "We have been warning for some time that the Right to Rent scheme is failing on all fronts. It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position, and there is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration.
“Creating a so called 'hostile environment' that targets vulnerable men, women and children is bad enough, implementing a scheme that traps and discriminates against British citizens is absurd. Expanding the scheme to devolved nations without taking into account the discrimination it causes would be misguided and unjustifiable. It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage.”
JCWI’s research suggests that landlords who have no wish to discriminate are being forced to do so by the scheme - with people who have a full right to rent a home in the UK being disadvantaged, along with others who should be able to access housing.
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), commented: “We share JCWI concerns over document discrimination and these findings reflect issues that the Residential Landlords Association raised right from the start. The government's own figures show the Right to Rent scheme is not working so maybe it is time to scrap it and think again. With the threat of a jail sentence hanging over landlords if they get it wrong it is hardly surprising that they are being cautious.
“There are more than 400 acceptable documents proving right to rent from within the EU alone and landlords are making risk-based decisions and only accepting documents that they recognise and have confidence in. The RLA supports landlords by offering immigration and right to rent courses which guide them through the complex process - including a section on the Equality Act and how to avoid discrimination.”