Hundreds of landlords fined over Right to Rent rules in Britain

Fines of over £265,000 have been collected from British landlords who have failed to comply with controversial rules over checks on tenants eligibility to stay in the UK.

The Right to Rent rules were introduced in England and Wales two years ago after a pilot scheme and figures from the Home Office show that 405 landlords have been fined since.

That means that the average fine amounts to £654 per landlord but the rules are being challenged in the High Court in London while research shows that landlords are reluctant to rent to non-British people.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is seeking a judicial review of the rules which compels landlords to check the passport details of would be tenants and argues that it is incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is backing the challenge. Its research has found that over four on 10 landlords, some 42%, are put off renting to someone who does not have a British passport.

The RLA points out that some British people do not have passports so they are being discriminated against as well. It is calling for the policy to be suspended pending a full review of its implications.

‘The Windrush scandal has shown that even trained, immigration officers can make serious mistakes. This highlights how inappropriate it is to demand that untrained landlords become enforcers of Government immigration policy. Those who cannot easily prove their right to rent with documents landlords are clearly familiar with are finding it increasingly difficult to access the homes they need,’ said David Smith, director of policy for the RLA.

‘In reality Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who need, and are legally entitled to, housing in the UK but cannot easily prove it. This is causing needless tension and concern for tenants and landlords. It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy,’ he added.

Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants believes that the policy is actually counterproductive as it forces people into dealing with less scrupulous landlords. ‘The Right to Rent scheme imposes costly red tape on every landlord in the UK, and the Government has no evidence it’s working,’ he said.

‘Meanwhile, landlords themselves tell us it encourages them to discriminate against foreign nationals. Denying individuals the right to rent property only increases the power of exploitative rogue landlords and employers,’ he added.

Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who is representing the JCWI, said it should be no surprise that landlords go down the path of least resistance. ‘If they have someone who comes to them with a British passport, they know they are at no risk of criminal liability,’ she pointed out.

‘JCWI argues that the Government is not in any position to justify this policy because it has not gathered any evidence that its ‘hostile environment’ is having any effect, that is, the desired effect of prompting illegal migrants to leave, rather than going underground to be exploited by rogue landlords. It can’t show that it is achieving that end, and it can’t show it has given any consideration of the unintended impact it is having,’ she added