Right to Rent was introduced by the government from 1st February 2016, in an attempt to address the issue of illegal immigrants obtaining property to rent in the private sector.
The penalties for landlords who failed to undertake the Right to Rent checks were serious, landlords facing fines of up to £3,000 per tenant if the checks are not properly carried out. From 1st December 2016, the Immigration Act 2016 introduced a new maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment for landlords and agents who did not undertake the Right to Rent checks and remove illegal immigrants.
Has this legislation had a dramatic effect, and removed hundreds, if not thousands of illegal immigrants from the private sector? This was seemingly a huge problem, needing legislation and harsh penalties, so what has been the result over the 11 months since the legislation was introduced?
Very little, from the statistics provided by the House of Lords. They reveal that only 75 civil penalties were issued to landlords with tenants with no right to rent in the first 9 months of the legislation. Although 654 private tenants were identified as having no right to stay in the country, only 31 were deported. This is hardly impressive and made even less so when Robert Goodwill, the Minister of State for Immigration, revealed that it would be too expensive to routinely collect Right to Rent statistics, so it no longer happened.
This is the problem with most recent legislation that has impacted on the private rented sector – it is introduced, decent landlords are delighted, believing it will ‘weed out’ those landlords who are breaking the law, only to find the funding is not made available for it to be able to be policed as needed, if it is to have the effect that is intended.
Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Home Office minister, believes ‘This means that the majority of illegal migrant prospective tenants will be denied access to the private rented sector as a result of these checks with no intervention by enforcement officers and no reference to the Home Office’. This is a very positive pronouncement and one which we all hope is true. The cost of introducing legislation is such that no-one would want to believe that it has done nothing to help with the problem and therefore has been an unnecessary expense.
However, the lack of a significant result since it was introduced and the lack of resources to police it properly, may indicate that Baroness Williams is perhaps a little optimistic. The vulnerable, that have given all their savings to obtain a dangerous passage to what they think is a safe, if illegal, haven in this country, are likely to be targeted by unethical landlords, providing beds in sheds, rooms with multiple bunk beds, overcrowded, unsanitary and unhealthy accommodation.
We know they will not do Right to Rent checks. Can we be equally certain that these reprehensible landlords will be caught and face the penalties? These latest statistics seem to imply not.
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