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Calls for Right to Rent legislation to be scrapped

What is Right to Rent legislation?

The Right to Rent legislation – one of the Government’s key immigration policies – was introduced by Theresa May while she held the position of Home Secretary and implemented in 2016. The scheme stated that landlords or their agents were responsible for checking the immigration status of their prospective tenants and if they had reason to believe that their tenant didn’t have the ‘right to rent’ and was living in the UK illegally they were unable to allow them to rent their property, and possibly be obliged to report them to the Home Office.

In order to carry out such checks, landlords or their agents were tasked with reviewing the prospective tenant’s ID, along with the relevant visa/Biometric Residence Permit (where applicable). In addition, the landlord/agent must make sure they store copies of the documents and a note of when these documents were checked.

Should the Landlord or agent allow a Tenant without legal status to rent the property they risk an unlimited fine and potentially criminal charges. Marsh & Parsons take on the responsibility for our clients to ensure that adequate documentation is collected. In doing this we create what is referred to as a “statutory excuse” for both landlord & the agent in the case that the Home Office discovers an illegally residing tenant.

What’s the latest ruling on Right to Rent legislation?

Now, this is where the complications arise. A recent judgement by the High Court has stated that if a landlord or agent were to prevent a Tenant renting a property on the basis that they didn’t have the right to rent, they could in fact be breaching the Equality Act as this would amount to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality”. Despite initiation by the Home Office, a civil claim could be brought against the landlord or agent as they are said to be acting discriminatorily by preventing tenants from renting the property. This, therefore, gives tenants who may be living in the UK illegally a case for potential additional damages against the Landlord or agent.

So where does this leave landlords?

The Residential Landlords Association has written to the Home Office to abandon the Right to Rent Scheme completely, deeming the legislation a farce. David Smith, Policy Director of the Residential Landlords Association said; “To put landlords in a position where acting on a direct instruction provided by the Home Office leaves them open to breaching equality law cannot be tolerated.

“With the High Court having ruled that discrimination is baked into the Right to Rent scheme it is time for the policy to be scrapped altogether.”

What is next for Right to Rent legislation?

We aren’t 100% clear on what is next for the Right to Rent scheme. Whilst legislation that puts landlords or agents in such a quandary is not sustainable, it is uncertain whether the legislation will simply be scrapped or reinterpreted based on the High Court ruling. Whatever the changes, our team of senior lettings and property management experts will be able to represent and guide you accordingly to make sure you are fully in line with all legislation.

We will continue to update you about the developments of the Right to Rent scheme but should you have any pertinent questions on the matter, feel free to get in touch.

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