A law firm says landlords being obliged to conduct checks on the immigration status of potential tenants is encouraging and even facilitating racial discrimination.
Bates Wells says that the launch of the Home Office’s new Right To rent online service tomorrow is likely to increase publicity around these checks and lead to more landlords screening out foreign applicants or those with foreign-sounding names, without going through the proper checking process.
Landlords who fail to undertake these immigration status checks can be fined £1,000 for a first offence and £3,000 for a further offence.
Chetal Patel, a partner in Bates Wells’ immigration practice, says: “The new push the Home Office is putting behind these checks could give rise to even greater discrimination on the basis of race and nationality.
“Individuals who have non-English sounding names, may find themselves ignored by landlords and could struggle to find a place to live, even if they have every right to be living and working in the UK.”
“Streamlining and digitising processes doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, as not all prospective tenants or tenants will have a UK immigration status that can be checked online.”
Patel says that placing the burden of checking on “ordinary people like buy to let investors to undertake the policing of immigration” is a poor policy decision, and comes on the heels of the government being criticised for its Hostile Environment Policy and the Windrush scandal.
There has been widespread criticism from landlords and agents, as well as external organisations, for the government’s controversial Right To Rent policies.
Recently the Association of Residential Letting Agents wrote to the government over the burden of work associated with Right To Rent.
Temporary changes to Right To Rent, instigated in March by the Home Office in the light of the pandemic, were thought to be short-lived; however they have now been in place for eight months and are ongoing.
The government now says that within eight weeks of the temporary Right to Rent measures being lifted - at an unspecified date when the virus subsides - agents “will also need to carry out full retrospective checks on tenants who started their tenancy during this period.”
In a letter to MP Kevin Foster - the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, based at the Home Office - ARLA warns the sheer scale of this work is impossible to be undertaken by agents within the government’s timescale.
The association points out that in the near future agents will also have to adopt new digital checks for overseas applicants while also accommodating full in person checks including those for overseas nationals who elect to use other forms of identity documents.