Is the 'right to rent' right?
Matt Kennedy takes a look at the right to rent scheme following the publication of a report marking one year from its roll-out in England.
Today (13/02/2017) the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) published its report Passport Please which details the result of a mystery shopping exercise on the right to rent scheme, one year on from its full roll-out in England.
What is the right to rent?
The policy came into force in England following a trial period in the West Midlands. It sets out that landlords must conduct checks to ensure new tenants have the right to reside in the UK before renting their property.
In England, the policy doesn’t change things in relation to allocating homes through a waiting list of nominations arrangement arising from homelessness legislation for example. Local Authorities continue to carry out their own checks on the eligibility of any nominee. Other exceptions include any lettings in a hostel, refuge or care home, accommodation to asylum seekers provided through Home office contracts and exchanges between existing tenancies.
For housing associations it depends on how lettings are determined – for example is this is via a common waiting list then the above arrangement still applies. If some letting are done through direct applications then the ‘right to rent’ checks apply. As they do for private landlords, tenants taking in a lodger or when a landlord adds an adult to an existing tenancy.
What are the concerns?
The JCWI report based on a mixture of survey work (with landlords, letting agents and other affected groups), mystery shopping enquiries and freedom of information requests found that:
- 52% of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals.
- 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanction.
- An enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic (BME) tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords, in a mystery shopping exercise.
The JCWI also highlight the need for better information to landlords in administering the scheme, recording of complaints, and general monitoring of the scheme’s effectiveness.
What could this mean for Wales?
The UK government holds the power to roll-out the scheme across the UK. It seems fair to say that the Home Office appears closely tied to going forward with implementation nationwide despite calls to complete further piloting and monitoring of the scheme. There is not at present, any clear timescale for its implementation in Wales. At a time where licensing under Rent Smart Wales, and the raft of legislative changes additional obligations under ‘right to rent’ may not be welcome news.