Cautious agents are already rejecting tenants because of a lack of any official guidance on compliance with Right to Rent, rather than risk £30,000 penalties.
The situation has been made worse by a new White Paper on immigration which, mystifyingly, has totally neglected to mention the post-Brexit future of Right to Rent checks.
ARLA says that with Brexit just weeks away, the lack of guidance is causing agents and landlords concern, particularly when new tenancies are being implemented and existing ones renewed.
A spokesperson said: “Freedom of movement means that if renting to an EU citizen, the agent currently takes a copy of the ID and stores it securely to show immigration authorities if challenged.
“These rules are likely – but it isn’t clear – to change post-Brexit.
“The expectation is that existing EU citizens living in the UK will be ‘protected’ but there are questions beyond April about what arrangements there will be for checks in relation to tenancy renewals and moving to a new property.
“In addition to this, if an agent or landlord currently grants a tenancy on the basis of time-limited ID (for example a visa) they need to do a follow-up check either on expiry or at 12 months.
“We are aware that lack of information about the future is leading some landlords to reject tenants with overseas ID now because of uncertainty and worry about problems and penalties post-Brexit when the rules change.
“Tenants, landlords and agents are suffering through lack of attention to this issue.
“Agents are acutely aware that the consequences could lead to penalties of £3,000 per tenant if the agent is found to have housed an ineligible tenant.”
The White Paper was finally released just before Christmas after delays rumoured to be caused by disagreement between the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on immigration targets.
While the White Paper does not mention Right to Rent, it does set out plans for a single skills-based immigration system applying equally to non-Europeans and EU citizens.
This would be introduced following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020.
If implemented, the system would prioritise skilled workers.
Right to Rent checks on non-EU citizens are “by implication” likely to remain firmly in place, says ARLA.
It believes that the proposals raise the possibility that responsibility for detecting fraudulent ID documents of EU nationals could pass back to Border Control in a digitalised form, partially removing the burden on agents.
However, the organisation is now seeking urgent clarification on exactly what the future looks like for Right to Rent, and in particular asking for guidance as to what agents and landlords should now be doing.
ARLA chief executive David Cox said that many agents and landlords are very concerned whether the choices they are making now on new tenancies and those coming up for renewal “will still conform in months and years to come”.
He added: “While we welcome the prospect of a digital status system for EU nationals, the data must be timely and 100% reliable.”
Right to Rent, which means that agents and landlords must carry out checks on all prospective tenants to ensure they have the right to live in the UK, currently apply only in England.