Call for landlord immigration checks to be halted amid concerns the policy is failing

Landlords in England are being required to act as immigration officials under the Government’s Right to Rent scheme without enough back up and contact, a new report has found.

Under rules introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 landlords in the private rented sector must check prospective tenants have the right to live in the country and face a fine or prison term for knowingly letting a property to a disqualified person.

It also included powers to enable landlords to terminate tenancies where the tenant is a disqualified individual but it has been criticised for being lacklustre. Now there is a call for the policy to be suspended until it can be brought up to scratch.

There are calls for a judicial review of the policy after a report from the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that the legislation has so far failed to demonstrate that it can encourage immigration compliance and the Home Office has failed to co-ordinate, maximise or even measure its use.

It highlights a lack of contact with landlords. Despite the Home Office setting up a Landlords Consultative Panel (LCP), a Landlord’s Checking Service, a Landlord’s Helpline, and publishing various guidance documents, in practice, there was no direct contact with the vast majority of landlords, the report says.

It explains that while the Landlord’s Checking Service (LCS) and Helpline are both being used, the volumes bear little relation to the size of the private rental sector, and the 48 hour response time for the LCS has been criticised as unrealistic, particularly in overheated rental markets, such as London, where landlords need a more immediate response.

‘Overall, I found that the Right to Rent scheme had yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders,’ said Chief Inspector David Bolt.

He recommends that the success of Right to Rent measures relies on private citizens more than public authorities and suggests the creation of a new Right to Rent Consultative Panel, inviting Landlords Consultative Panel (LCP) members and stakeholders concerned with the rights and interests of migrants who were not previously LCP members to join.

‘The remit of the new Panel should include raising and agreeing how to tackle issues and concerns about the working of the Right to Rent measures,’ it adds.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said the report makes it clear that the scheme is failing. ‘The report is a damning critique of a failing policy. The Inspector is clear that it has yet to demonstrate its worth and the Government has failed to take on board the concerns of key stakeholders in the sector,’ said David Smith, RLA director of policy.

‘Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of the border agencies. It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy,’ he added.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has continually raised concerns with the checks. Its own evaluation found that the scheme does nothing to deter irregular migration and claims it increase discrimination against migrants as landlords refuse to even consider renting to certain groups.

‘It is vital that the Government conducts a full and thorough evaluation of the scheme. It’s disgraceful that the Home Office has refused to properly evaluate whether or not the right to rent scheme is actually working to reduce irregular migration,’ said JCWI’s legal and policy director Chai Patel.

‘The Home Office has also refused to allow groups representing the migrants and ethnic minorities affected by this discriminatory scheme to sit on its consultative panel. It’s time for Amber Rudd to put an end to this divisive mess of a policy that forces landlords to act as immigration officials. Until she does, we will continue to challenge it in the courts,’ he added.