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Over 400 fines have been issued to private buy to let property investors under the controversial Right to Rent scheme.
By the end of March, 405 financial penalties had been levied on landlords, amounting to the value of £265,000. This total marks all fine fines that have accumulated since the Right to Rent scheme was introduced across England two years ago.
The Right to Rent scheme requires that landlords must ensure that their tenants have the right to be in the country. They must do this by checking passports or identity cards. Failure to comply can lead to landlords being fined up to £3,000 per tenant. Those who knowingly let a rental property to someone in the country illegally can face criminal proceedings and a stay of up to five years in prison.
Although many fines have been issued under the scheme, an inspection report published in March found that there had been no prosecutions.
The scheme has been placed in the limelight once again as part of the newly framed ‘compliant environment,’ following the Windrush scandal, which saw people who have lived and worked in Britain for years wrongly challenged over their immigration status.
Following the scandal, the Home Office issued guidance to landlords to clarify that prospective tenants who have lived in the UK permanently since before 1973, and have not left the country for long periods in the last 30 years, have the right to rent property.
Analysis of official data on Right to Rent from the Press Association shows the number and total value of fines increased for five consecutive quarters. Numbers then fell from the middle of last year. 39 penalties with a total value of £23,500 were issued from January to March 2018.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has called for Home Secretary Sajid Javid to review Right to Rent. Director of policy and practice at the NLA, Chris Norris, said that the latest figures ‘would seem to show that landlords are more aware of their responsibilities and are carrying out the required checks’.
However, he continued: ‘It is important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents. The Right to Rent scheme has placed an additional cost on an already pressurised sector, while the excessive checks and lack of monitoring may have had harmful consequences for would-be and vulnerable tenants.’
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘It’s right that we have a compliant environment to deter illegal immigration and protect public services and it is a policy that has been operated under successive governments. The Right to Rent checks were developed with the input of the Landlords Consultative Panel and there is online guidance as well as a helpline to ensure the scheme is fully understood.’