Right to Rent scheme will create ‘everyday racism’ in housing market, warning

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has attacked the Right to Rent scheme that the new Immigration Bill seeks to make law.

Under Right to Rent, landlords or their agents will have to check the immigration status of tenants or risk criminal sanctions including jail.

The Bill, which will make it a criminal offence to let a private rental property to illegal immigrants, will also require ongoing checks where a tenant’s right to be in the UK could change. The Bill also gives fast-track powers of eviction of illegal tenants.

Burnham – apparently the first politician to pick up on the potential problems which have been discussed for months within the industry – said the new regime could cause problems for “anyone with a foreign-sounding name”.

Burnham said the Bill was “disproportionate, divisive and deceitful”.

He said the new document checks could become the modern equivalent of the “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs that landlords used to display in their windows in the 1960s.

Burnham accused the Government of trying to legislate for “everyday racism” in the housing market.

He called for Home Secretary Theresa May to rethink the entire scheme.

Separately, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the new fast-track eviction powers could leave families destitute, and breach their human rights.

The Bill returns to the House of of Commons tomorrow.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government has made clear that the Right to Rent scheme is about reducing illegal migrants’ access to services – it has never been targeted at people with a lawful right to be in the UK.

“Right to Rent checks must be performed on a non-discriminatory basis – landlords are advised to check and record identity documents for all new tenants.

“Anyone who discriminates would be breaking the law.”

Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Landlords are rightly fearful of being caught out, and also that they could be criminalised by the legislation which threatens a £3,000 fine or even prison.

“It is only natural therefore that they would choose the most readily compliant tenant – such as the one with a passport, which brings up the problem that 17% of UK residents don’t have a passport.
“The RLA has been pushing the Home Office for clarification about documentation and for councils to issue letters to benefit tenants showing their right to rent.
“This legislation is being pushed through even before the report on the West Midlands pilot scheme has appeared.”
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10 Comments

  1. Will

    This is further bad legislation by the present Government.  Is it easier to prove you  have discriminated or easier to prove you got your paperwork wrong on immigration checks?  Does it matter you will be criminalised either way if you make an error! The more you look at what political both parties are doing the more you realise there is gross stupidity with current politicians.

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  2. MF

    It seems incredibly naïve of government to suppose that discrimination will not take place – and probably on a huge scale.

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  3. Peter

    There will be no racial discrimination in our office, but certainly there will be an issue where a work/resident permits are nearing an end; there are delays in permit renewals being issued, so either would not proceed in the first place or extend an existing tenancy in this situation.

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  4. seenitall

    its not worth the risk even if they have a work/resident permit.   Say the permit is for 10 months,  imagin the hassle after 6 months in renewing the TA or trying to get the tenants to show they have renewed their visa.       Its a criminal offence FFS if we get it wrong.

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  5. Eric Walker

    Ill thought out – yes – racist – No more than immigration at an airport. The checks apply to everyone and by definition, not having valid passport status will only apply to non EU citizens. What happens if you get someone with leave to stay in the UK with a tourist visa who later produces a work reference? Or someone in the same situation who pays a year in advance but provides a work telephone number. Do we get them sacked? The words ;unworkable’ and ‘chaos’ spring to mind.

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  6. Anonymous Coward

    I don’t think this will cause “RACISM” (capitals on purpose) – it’s just going to stop agents dealing with this part of our society because they don’t want to spend their valuable time (I typed “lazy” at first but that’s unfair), not because they are racist. Lettings is (in most cases) quite an easy way to earn money, but rather like dealing with Housing Benefit tenants, this now sounds like another no-go area.

    I think it’s a bit like some of the larger landlords I know removing gas boilers from their properties and going all electric – because in the long run it’s both easier and cheaper (for the landlord) and guess who suffers? The tenants now have higher heating bills.

    This looks like another badly thought out piece of legislation again.

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  7. livingproperty

    Whilst I don’t agree that letting agents should be doing the Governments job of checking the country for illegals, it’s not a big deal!

    If you don’t check the ID and status of your potential tenants anyway (guess what references do?!), you’re not doing your due diligence, which means the landlord could have legal recourse if anything goes wrong because you didn’t check out the tenants – just do your job, like every good agent should, and it will all be fine! It’s as simple as that.

    At the end of the day, most offices have a phone. If you’re unsure of a tenant and their ID, call someone who does know and get clarification via email to cover your butt. It’s like the Section 21 changes and Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms legislation – it’s really not that hard to understand when you actually read it.

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    1. Peter

      Just because it is easier to eat an elephant by bites size chunks, doesn’t mean you won’t get sick of it.

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    2. Will

      More and more regulation and things to do, things to check, records to keep, and face a criminal record if you get it wrong.  More and more legislation is going to prevent landlords getting their property back and an agent who makes a genuine mistake will be found negligent. His  professional indemnity premiums will rise all because a lunatic government insist on more badly written legislation. That is really not hard to understand either (sorry livingproperty not having a go at you)

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  8. Woodentop

    Home Secretary Theresa May   … the more I see and hear her, the more I think she hasn’t a clue. It is the unelected civil servant in the background that is the most worrying bit.

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