The Home Office’s latest statistics on Right to Rent enforcement shows that an increasing number of landlords have been fined in what appears to be a new crackdown on illegal immigration. Fines totalling £163,000 were issued to 236 property owners between the start of February 2016 and June this year. That is more than one a day.
Following a trial in the West Midlands, the Right to Rent scheme under the Immigration Act 2014 was introduced in England in February 2016 and requires landlords to check prospective tenants’ immigration status and refuse housing to those without the appropriate ‘Right to Rent’.
We have previously posted on the new criminal sanctions that landlords can face if they fail to check prospective tenants’ immigration status but, in summary it is now up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine on prosecution as well as the already existing civil penalty scheme of up to £3,000 for each person found not to have a Right to Rent.
The latest Home Office figures reveal the number of landlords fined under the Immigration Act has more than tripled in just over a year. This is a dramatic increase and shows that there is a substantial appetite to enforce the legislation. The latest statistics show that between April and June this year 76 penalties making a total of £47,700 were issued to landlords. However, in the first three months of 2016 there were only 14 fines with a total value of £13,800. The figures show a slight drop in fines but this is partly explained by the increased number of penalties and also shows that fines are being issued for lesser offences.
These new criminal sanctions and the increase in the incidence civil penalties may result in some landlords avoiding letting a property to anyone that does not have a British passport. However, it is a legal requirement and landlords and agents will need to ensure that the required checks are carried out and the relevant paperwork retained to demonstrate that they have discharged their legal obligations. It should be remembered that the Right to Rent checks are for the purposes of the legislation only and may constitute unlawful discrimination to refuse a letting using Right to Rent data where the actual reason is the nationality of the individual or the fact that they have a time-limited rather than a permanent right to rent.