Landlord immigration checks ‘could encourage people to create fake documents’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 February 2016

From Monday, landlords will have to carry out immigration cheks to establish whether prospective tenants have the right to rent in the UK

From Monday, landlords will have to carry out immigration cheks to establish whether prospective tenants have the right to rent in the UK

PA/Press Association Images

A new scheme to oblige landlords to carry out immigration checks on prospective tenants may not prevent people from renting illegally, Redbridge Citizens Advice Bureau has warned.

The Right to Rent scheme, which is aimed at tackling illegal immigration, was piloted in the West Midlands and rolled out in the whole of England yesterday – leading to concerns and criticisms.

Under the new legislation, landlords have to check their prospective tenants have the right to rent in the UK and should carry out identity checks in the presence of the applicant – up to £3,000 fines apply if they do not comply or rent their property illegally.

Steven Young, a supervisor at Redbridge Citizens Advice Bureau, is concerned landlords may decide to prioritise tenants who have an easier immigration status – British citizens.

“Landlords are not immigration officers,” he added.

Mr Young also suggested the new system could encourage tenants to create fake documents and he was unsure whether the scheme would prevent illegal renting at all.

Richard Blanco, representative for the National Landlords Association (NLA), said the scheme was not “onerous” to put in place as the NLA previously recommended landlords carry out identity checks on prospective tenants.

But he admitted many landlords have never conducted these checks before and the scheme was not fully understood by all landlords.

This comes after the Residential Landlord Association (RLA) revealed on Monday 90 per cent of landlords have received no information from the government about the new Right to Rent scheme.

Mr Blanco also warned the scheme could become “an excuse” for discrimination – even if, this stands against the 2010 Equality Act.

“In Redbridge, where there is such a diverse community, race and nationality should have nothing to do with the right to rent,” he said.

Mr Blanco told the Recorder there had been a few cases during the pilot sheme when people with the right to rent in the UK were unable to provide the adequate documents.

“Then it is a bit tricky,” said Mr Blanco, who acknowledged the renters in the West Midland were very different from prospective tenants in London.

Rita Chadha, executive director for the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (Ramfel), said the scheme would affect a wide proportion of renters, including British nationals, who may not own a passport.

She added being “worried” about the impact this would have on Redbridge Council’s housing services, if people are turned away by private landlords.

“People are going to be very distressed and very unconfident,” she said.

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