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Right to rent is coming to England

23 October 2015

Landlords in England will soon have to check the immigration status of prospective and renewing tenants, the government has announced on Tuesday 20 October. The Right to Rent scheme, which was trialled in the West Midlands, will be rolled out across the whole of England from 1 February 2016.

The evaluation report of the pilot scheme, undertaken by the Home Office, was also published on the same day as the announcement. It indicates that while a number of landlords did show a ‘potential for discrimination’, a result feared by some within the industry and society at large, on the whole no difference was made by agents and landlords between prospective tenants of foreign descent or with foreign-sounding names.

During the first six months of the pilot scheme 109 people living illegally in Britain were identified by the mandatory checks, of which 63 had been unknown to the Home Office. In total, five penalty fines were issued to landlords.

The Home Office was keen to stress that the scheme is part of their wider attempt at creating a ‘hostile environment for illegal migrants’ and that landlords would be provided with advice and support prior to the law coming into effect on 1 February. Failure to comply with the new regulation could cost landlords up to £3,000 per tenant.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said that the government had tried to conceal this report as only days before MPs had voted on the Immigration Bill, of which Right to Rent forms a part. He also accused Home Secretary Theresa May of ‘entrenching casual discrimination in the housing market’.

The Scottish government has objected to the introduction of the new regulations and has said that it will do everything it can to prevent the scheme from being rolled out in Scotland. However, it has conceded that it could be introduced through secondary legislation from Westminster.

Charities including Shelter, Crisis and the Joint Council of Immigrant Welfare have expressed concerns over the decision, with Matt Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis calling the report ‘deeply troubling’ on the charity’s website.

The National Landlords Association’s (NLA) CEO Richard Lambert welcomed the announcement and said that landlords now finally had clarity that the new regulation would definitely come into effect across all of England. He called for landlords to start familiarising themselves with what will be required of them to make sure they comply with the law from February.

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