Last week the government tightened its Right to Rent rules, making it a criminal offence for a landlord to let to anyone they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is an illegal immigrant. Previously breaches of this law were sanctioned by civil penalties. However as of 1st December the penalty for failing to check a tenant’s right to rent is a criminal offense which may risk a prison sentence.
Under the Rent to Right policy, landlords must check that their tenants can legally rent a property. Tenants must produce a document, such as a passport or a certificate of naturalisation, to prove their Right to Rent.Under the new rules, landlords could also receive government notices to terminate tenancies for people disqualified from renting. In such circumstances renters may face eviction without a court order.
This policy has serious ramifications for renters. According to a survey conducted by the housing charity Shelter, 44% of landlords said the policy would make them less likely to rent to people who appear to be immigrants, with similar numbers saying the same about people without a British passport.
In addition to potential discrimination , reports exist of letting agents charging prospective tenants additional agency fees to conduct Right to Rent checks.
In 2015 a Home Office evaluation of the Right to Rent scheme found that some landlords were charging a fee which ranged from £10 to £120 to carry out immigration checks which the government estimates would take around five minutes to complete. The Right to Rent policy must be applied to all tenants and by law, landlords must check that every tenant has the right to rent in the UK which could lead to increased lettings fees for tenants.
Although the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement announced plans to ban lettings agent fees, there is an important window where landlords and letting agents can pass on the enhanced Right to Rent checks to tenants. Renters should therefore be vigilant that they check the amount charged by landlords for administration fees before the letting fee ban officially comes into force.