As many of you will now be aware, the Government have announced that Right to Rent checks, currently being trialled in the West Midlands, are due to be rolled out to the rest of England on 1 February 2016.
It is not a popular move. For example:
- RLA Policy Director David Smith has said that this is premature as the findings from the pilot have not been properly assessed and points out that it could also prejudice UK nationals who do not have a passport.
- Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary has said that it will be the equivalent of the ‘no dogs, no Irish, no blacks’ signs that used to appear in boarding house windows in the 1960’s.
What is wrong with the Right to Rent rules?
At first brush, the right to rent rules sound reasonable. After all – why should anyone without the right to rent in England be allowed to rent a property?
As always though it is not that simple. Here are some of the main objections:
UK Citizens without passports
A large number of legitimate UK citizens, who do not go on foreign holidays and so do not have a passport (which costs £72.50 – a lot of money for someone on benefits) will find it very difficult to obtain accommodation.
The rules make it clear that landlords will be expected to carry out checks on EVERYONE, including everyone living in the property, not just the person signing the tenancy agreement.
So if two adults and two adult childen are looking to rent a property and don’t have passports, this will cost them £290 plus the cost of getting passport photos done and perhaps fees for getting the photos signed by someone in authority. Which could easily add up to £40 or more to the bill.
Where are people living on benefits (who are already very stretched) going to find that sort of money?
This is in effect a new tax on poor people who need to rent. Who will benefit? The treasury.
Prejudice against perceived foreigners
We are a multi cultural country and are proud of it. However this means that many people do not ‘look’ English and may have an accent and wear ‘foreign’ clothes, even though they are either born in this country or are nationaised UK citizens.
Faced with the prospect of a £3,000 fine if they get things wrong, many landlords are going to play safe and only rent to people they can be sure are British. Probably white middle class people with passports.
Which will make it very difficult for less obvious UK nationals to find accommodation (already in short supply in many places)
The extra burden on landlords
The information put out by government is that this is a simple check and should not cause landlords problems. However it is not that easy.
Landlords are understandably worried that they are going to be expected to spot forgeries and false documentation and will be penalised if they fail to do so.
A delegate at our recent workshop voiced what a lot of landlords will be thinking when she said it should be up to immigration control to keep illegal immigrants out, not for landlords to have to deal with their failure to do their job properly.
There is also the problem that one of the requirements is that landlords need to see ‘original documents’. How can they see the original passport of someone who is trying to sort out accommodation before they move to this country? They are not going to want to post their passport to prospective landlords – they will need it to travel!
My advice to landlords is to outsource this work to a specialist company (and make sure you have a written agreement to that effect). However, the specialist company will need to be paid for this work, which will (of course) result in higher rents for tenants …
Note by the way that the rules also apply to lodger landlords – most of whom will be wholly unaware of the need for this and will have no idea how to carry out the checks anyway.
Are right to rent checks effective?
There is also the point that this announcemnt has been made before a proper analysis of the West Midlands pilot has been done.
Indeed Government announcements in the past indicate that they intended to bring this in regardless of the results of the pilot analysis.
Such information as we have about the pilot is that it was not very effective with few penalty notices being issued and fewer still illegal immigrants being deported as a result of them.
An income opportunity for criminal landlords
Criminal landlords are of course always with us.
They must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of large numbers of potential tenants having no alternative but to rent their dilapidated and often dangerous premsies at extortionate rents.
Landlords need to know what is expected of them and so should do at least some training. This is even more crucial for letting agents.
This is what Easy Law Training has:
- We will shortly be launching an online training course which will include a session on right to rent. Sign up here to be kept informed.
- Our Landlord Law Conference 2016 in Manchester will include a talk from Sue Lukes on Right to Rent. There is a clip from her last talk on the conference information page.
- We are also considering putting on a one day workshop but only if there is sufficeint demand. If you are interested please complete the online form here.
But make sure you do SOMETHING!