£37,000 worth of fines have been issued to landlords in the first eight months of England’s Right to Rent scheme.
62 landlords have been fined through the scheme between the start of February and end of September last year according to figures from the Press Association, equating to a rate of around one every four days. Right to Rent has caused controversy in the buy to let sector due to claims that it is encouraging tenant discrimination as well as putting undue pressure on landlords.
The scheme requires landlords to establish that tenants or lodgers have a right to be in the country by taking copies passports or identity cards. Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to £3,000 a tenant, whilst knowingly breaching the law can end with landlords facing up to five years’ imprisonment.
A Freedom of Information request led to the release of the Home Office data on civil penalties issued for letting to tenants or lodgers without the right to rent. It was discovered that the fines issued between February 1 and September 30 last year ranged from £80 to £3,000, with the majority relating to one or two tenants. 26 of the fines were handed out over tenantss in rented accommodation.
Of the 654 individuals who became known to the authorities between the launch of a pilot programme in December 2014 and September last year, 31 were removed from the UK, whilst other cases may be being progressed to removal.
Head of policy at the National Landlords Association, Chris Norris, said: ‘Only a small number of landlords have been penalised as a result of the scheme so far, with an average fine of £260 handed out in conjunction with these cases. This probably suggests that landlords are accidentally falling foul of the law, rather than deliberately or maliciously breaking the rules. It’s important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents, so with time, education and the right support, we’d hope that these kinds of cases begin to diminish. However, ultimately this scheme should be judged on whether it tackles or prevents those who knowingly ignore the law and let to people who are in the UK illegally, but so far there’s little evidence to suggest it is having the desired effect.’
A Home Office spokeswoman commented: ‘Right to Rent deters people from staying in the UK when they have no right to do so. We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, such as local authorities, landlords and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme. This ensures that levels of awareness are good and that checks are being routinely carried out. Where illegal migrants are found to be renting property, we are taking action.’