As the new compulsory Right to Rent regime goes live across England today, opposition to the scheme continues to be fiercely voiced.
One landlord body claimed that over 90% of landlords have not been given any official information about it, while housing lawyer David Smith said: “How familiar are you with a passport of Liechtenstein? Can you spot a forgery? I certainly can’t.
“But that is what landlords are being asked to do, and if they don’t they will be at risk of a financial penalty.”
Another lawyer said Right to Rent has the “potential to cause significant fear and hardship for migrant groups” while having very little impact on illegal immigration.
Sumita Gupta, head of immigration at law firm Simpson Millar in Manchester, said the pilot scheme in the west midlands had resulted in just nine civil penalties in a year.
Between December 1, 2014, when the pilot was launched, and November 19, 2015, six fines were issued to landlords in Birmingham, two in Sandwell, and one in Dudley.
The total value of the fines came to £9,480.
No fines at all were issued to letting agents.
Gupta said: “Given that the pilot covered an area with more than 2m people it is hard to see how the scheme has had any significant impact at all.
“Rather, it has the potential to create a culture of fear and discrimination.
“There will be rogue landlords who won’t care about undertaking the required document checks; they could view this new scheme as an opportunity to exploit a very vulnerable group of people who might otherwise find it difficult to secure accommodation and end up homeless.
“This is another example of UK Visas and Immigration outsourcing their responsibilities. Immigration is a hugely complex and sensitive area of law.
“The documents that landlords will be expected to check are manifold.
“Enforcement should be dealt with by the appropriate agencies but, instead, this scheme puts the responsibilities on to the shoulders of private landlords, agencies and sub-letters.”
Meanwhile, the Residential Landlords Association said that more than nine in ten landlords have had no information from the Government on their new legal duty.
The checks must be carried out on the immigration status of not just the tenant, but of all adults seeking to live in the household.
The RLA carried out a survey of over 1,500 landlords and found that 72% do not understand their obligations.
The survey also found that 44% of landlords will only let to those with documents that are familiar to them.
While the scheme has already gone live, the RLA said it should not have been rolled out and called for a re-think.
The evaluation of the pilot scheme in the west midlands noted “limited evidence” that it was deterring illegal immigrants from seeking to access rental housing.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA and expert commentator for EYE, said: “The Government argues that its Right to Rent plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants.
“The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.
“Landlords are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Fearful of a fine they face two difficult ways forward.
“They can play it safe, and take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12m UK citizens without a passport. Alternatively, they may target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism.
“The Government’s own evaluation of its pilot scheme noted that there was only limited evidence that the policy is achieving its objectives.
“Given the considerable problems it will create for tenant-landlord relations it’s time for the Government to think again.”