Any agent or landlord who vets a prospective tenant and finds that they are an illegal immigrant does not have to report them – provided they do not allow that person to rent.
The wording of a sentence, which apparently highlights an absurdity, leaps out of a new Commons briefing paper on Right to Rent.
Right to Rent was rolled out across England on February 1.
It currently carries civil penalties, but the newer Immigration Bill plans to turn these into criminal penalties with stiff fines and possible jail for agents and landlords.
Right to Rent is a government flagship policy, meant to deter illegal immigrants.
However, it appears that illegal immigrants will be free to wander from one letting agent to another and from one landlord to another, without earlier checks being made known, or the Home Office aware – and with the risk that the illegal immigrant will sooner or later be offered accommodation.
The new briefing paper to MPs says: “With regards to new tenants, landlords are under no obligation to report an applicant with no Right to Rent to the Home Office, provided they do not allow them to occupy the property.”
While that sentence refers to landlords, the paper also makes clear that landlords can transfer their Right to Rent checks to agents, as long as it is done in writing.
The briefing paper also discusses the pilot Right to Rent scheme which took place in the west midlands.
The briefing paper notes: “14 of 55 letting agents had received complaints from landlords or potential tenants, most frequently mentioning discrimination and delayed tenancy starts due to checks. 52% of respondent landlords said they had concerns about the scheme.
“The majority of landlords and letting agents saw no benefit to the scheme.”
The new Immigration Bill 2015-2016, currently going through Parliament, creates four new offences aimed at targeting “those rogue landlords and agents who deliberately and repeatedly fail to comply with the Right to Rent scheme or fail to evict individuals who they know or have reasonable cause to believe are disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status”.
Two of the new proposed offences are specific to letting agents and are:
- A letting agent will commit an offence if they carry out Right to Rent checks for a landlord and know, or have reasonable cause to believe, that a landlord will be entering into a tenancy agreement with someone disqualified as a result of their immigration status and fails to tell the landlord despite having sufficient opportunity to do so.
- A further offence will be committed where an agent carrying out right to rent checks for a landlord does not notify the landlord and Secretary of State when a tenant’s leave to remain in the UK expires during the course of the tenancy and they continue to occupy the premises with the agent’s knowledge or where the agent has reasonable cause to believe this has happened.
The new, and very thorough briefing paper, is here