Right to rent update: Government’s post-Brexit immigration white paper gives little clarification for landlords

Article Posted -
19 Dec 2018

Today, the Government has released a white paper outlining its future plans for immigration in post- Brexit Britain.  

Unfortunately, the paper contains a considerable lack of detail on its plans for Right to Rent, only outlining the functions of the in-development digital checking service. 

This new service is currently being developed by the Home Office, which will enable individuals to access and share their status information with third parties, whilst also reducing transactional costs. Real time verification of status will give landlords the tools to confirm an individual’s rights and eligibility, based on their immigration status.  

According to the Home Office, this process will be simpler, more secure and up-to-date than checking a variety of documentation. 

The Right to Rent policy is a key part of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ strategy as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants. 

Under these rules, landlords could find themselves fined – or even given prison sentences – should they be found to be housing tenants with no right to be in the country. 

The policy has attracted criticism from a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including landlord bodies, journalists and politicians. In a critical report published on 28 March 2018, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, found that: 

“…the Right to Rent (RtR) scheme had yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders”. 

The report highlighted concerns and criticisms raised by the NLA and the Landlords Consultative Panel chaired by the Immigration Minister. 

Since the policy’s inception, the NLA has published a number of reservations regarding Right to Rent, lobbying for more robust protections for landlords than initially proposed, with the courts now required to consider the landlord’s defence of

  • taking reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy 
  • taking these steps in a reasonable time period since finding out about the tenant’s disqualification from renting. 

On 1 May, the NLA also wrote to Sajid Javid to outline our concerns, using the opportunity to press the former Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government to review the controversial Right to Rent scheme in light of the Government’s own figures, which show the policy costs an additional £4.7m per year. 

At the time of Mr Javid’s appointment, Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, said: 

“In his time as Housing and Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid worked with the NLA to support the private rented sector (PRS). 

“We have reminded Mr Javid of the effects the Right to Rent scheme has had on would-be and vulnerable tenants, its excessive checks and lack of monitoring, and the additional cost it is placing on an already pressurised sector. 

“There is now an opportunity for us to work with Mr Javid, and with new Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, to look again and come up with a more practical, workable system than the one we have.” 

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