Government announces ‘right to rent’ scheme despite opposition from charities

Homelessness charity Crisis says more people will become homeless as a result of the scheme



The government has announced today that as of 1 February 2016, all private landlords will have to check prospective tenants have the right to live in the UK before renting to them.

It follows the publication of an evaluation of a pilot ‘right to rent’ scheme in Birmingham, carried out to assess how the measures would work in practice. Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, who introduced the scheme as part of the 2014 Immigration Act, said:

“Right to rent checks are quick and simple, and many responsible landlords already do them as a matter of routine. We are providing landlords in England with all the advice and support they need before the checks go live on 1 February 2016.”

In August, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) expressed concern that ‘right to rent’ would lead to people who are in the country legally being denied homes.

The majority of landlords will be unfamiliar with documents relating to immigration, meaning they may choose to err on the side of caution and reject anyone who does not have an easily recognisable right to be in the UK.

And today charities have said they are concerned about the impact of the scheme on homelessness. According to the Home Office evaluation, six of the local charities surveyed said people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while interviews with landlords found the ‘potential’ for discrimination.

Seven of the charities reported that people who have the right to rent, but not the right documentation, were struggling to find accommodation.

The report found that there was ‘a slight increase in the number of homelessness acceptances for non-EEA nationals in the West Midlands in 2015 compared to 2014 and 2013’.

Responding to the announcement, national homelessness charity Crisis raised ‘grave’ concerns that the new measures could leave people homeless and at risk of discrimination.

Matt Downie, the charity’s director of Policy and External Affairs, said:

“Today’s Home Office evaluation contains some alarming findings about the homelessness impact of these plans. Crisis has already raised serious concerns that requiring landlords to check the immigration status of renters could make it even harder for homeless people to find a place to live, and this report shows that our fears are well founded.

“Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen, and in today’s high pressure rental market, landlords will be more likely to rent to someone who can provide the evidence quickly. As well as creating problems for homeless people, this could lead to discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds, as today’s evaluation suggests.”

Landlords who took part in the pilot scheme were also uncomfortable with some of its implications. In total, 52 per cent (59 of 114) of respondents to the landlords’ survey said they had concerns about the scheme. These concerns included:

The additional work for them (45 out of 59)

Checks delaying tenancy start dates (30 out of 59)

Not understanding the immigration system (29 out of 59)

Vulnerable groups being disadvantaged because they did not have the required information (25 out of 59)

Properties being left empty (22 out of 59

The authors of the evaluation write that many respondents expressed the view that they were being asked to carry out a role that should be done by immigration officers. Brokenshire insisted today that right to rent checks are ‘quick and simple, and that ‘many responsible landlords already do them as a matter of routine’. He said:

“We are providing landlords in England with all the advice and support they need before the checks go live on 1 February 2016.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

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