Next Monday (1 February) the Right to Rent rules will come into force throughout England.
Right to Rent was introduced by last year’s Immigration Act, but this year’s Immigration Bill, currently being considered by the House of Lords, proposes tightening the law still further, with criminal offences for landlords who don’t comply – and eviction (without the need for court proceedings) for families without the Right to Rent.
Hopefully, you’ve heard of Right to Rent – particularly if you plan to be looking for a private rental any time soon. If you haven’t got a clue what I’m on about, then I strongly suggest you read on and, if necessary, get advice.
While Right to Rent has been introduced by the Home Office, and while its policy intention is to deal with unlawful immigration, it’s actually a mainstream housing issue that will affect all private renters, and from next week, it’s coming to your town.
Right to Rent means that private landlords, and their agents, must carry out immigration checks before they grant a tenancy starting on or after 1 February, even where they don’t use a tenancy agreement. It applies to people (including social tenants) who sub-let a room in their rented home or most people who take in a paying lodger. And the immigration checks must not just be made on the prospective tenant/s, but all on all people over the age of 18 who will be living in the property as their only or main home.
So, who has a right to rent and how can they prove it to the agent or landlord?
Well, in essence, you have a full right to rent if you’re a British or European national, or have been given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and a time-limited right to rent if you have more restricted immigration status, such as limited leave to remain.
Perhaps at this point you’re thinking “I’m a British national so nothing to worry about”. But, if you can’t prove that you have a right to rent, then the landlord will be committing an offence if they let to you. This is something we’re worried about. For a start, 14.2% of English people aged 16+ have no passport. Then there are all sorts of reasons why people might not have an up to date passport to hand.
Thankfully, the Home Office have taken this on board, and there are a number of other documents, including letters from people in authority, that can be used to prove I.D. instead. If the landlord wants to double-check, there is a Home Office checking service.
So, in theory at least, there should be nothing for most people to worry about. If we lived in a world where it was easy enough to find a private rental, then there probably wouldn’t be. But private rentals are already very difficult to find. In many areas, the huge demand for affordable, decent accommodation means that landlords can be very picky about who they let to – often bringing their own preferences and prejudices to bear.
Our research shows that over a third (37%) of landlords who make decisions on letting to migrant tenants admitted that ‘It’s natural that stereotypes and prejudices come into it when I decide who to let to’, even before next week’s Right to Rent rules roll out. Around half say the Right to Rent checks are going to make them less likely to consider letting to people who don’t hold British passports or who ‘appear to be immigrants’.
So we’re really concerned that even those who have every right to rent (and can prove it), will be told the landlord has let to someone else, and in some cases wind up homeless. Even before the roll-out, we’re seeing people contact our services because landlords are refusing to let to them. If you feel you’re being discriminated against in this way, you should seek advice.
We’ve urged the Government to commit to an evaluation of the impact of the new rules, but so far they have no concrete plans to do so.
We’re also urging the Government not to press ahead with Immigration Bill measures allowing landlords to evict those without the Right to Rent without the need for a court order, which could leave families at risk of eviction without any forewarning of the bailiff’s arrival. We hope the Bill will be amended to allow occupiers to apply to the court to challenge the landlord’s notice to quit and, at the very least, be given notice of the eviction time.
We must ensure that Right to Rent doesn’t result in further homelessness.