For several months the Home Office has been considering extending to the rest of the UK the document checks that are now compulsory when a new letting takes place in England. Since February last year, English landlords (with exceptions like lettings by councils and through nominations to housing associations) have had to make document checks on new tenants. The aim is to ensure they have the so-called ‘right to rent’ – permission to be in the UK that enables them to have a tenancy.
The Chartered Institute of Housing has opposed the document checks right from the start, and secured a few concessions about how they would be run when a pilot scheme began in the West Midlands in 2014. The Home Office committed to re-evaluate the checks once the pilot scheme was running. However, while their monitoring report identified problems – as did an evaluation by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) that CIH supported – the Home Office decided to roll out the scheme across England anyway.
In their latest questioning of the scheme, JCWI has the support of the Residential Landlords Association. The RLA have been against the scheme from the start and, like JCWI and CIH, were fully aware of the likelihood that it would lead to more discrimination by landlords. Not only would there be a strong temptation to discriminate against migrants, but the fear was that some landlords would turn away anyone who was ‘foreign looking’ or indeed didn’t have a straightforward British passport. The JCWI’s most recent survey showed that these fears were well-founded, and that nearly half of the landlords they surveyed were likely to discriminate in some form, especially as recent legislation has ramped up the penalties for letting to someone who doesn’t have the ‘right to rent’.