New law requiring landlords to check immigration status of tenants has caused confusion

From today, landlords who let property in England will have to carry out checks to make sure potential tenants have the right to rent property in the UK. The laws could cause problems for young tenants and the less well-off, and could also put landlords at risk of being accused of discrimination, according to a report in The Guardian.

Under the rules, landlords are expected to check documents with their tenants and ensure that the documents are originals and belong to the tenant and that the dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK have not passed. If a tenant’s permission to stay is time-limited, landlords can be fined if they do not make further checks before the expiry date or 12 months after the first check.

Anyone who breaks the rules and is found to be letting a home to a tenant who is not allowed to stay can be fined up to £1,000 the first time, and £3,000 subsequently.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its members faced a difficult choice: they could “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.

The RLA said that more than nine out of 10 landlords of the 1,500 landlords it surveyed had not received any information from the government about this new legal duty, and three in four did not understand their obligations.

Dr David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “The government argues that its ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.”

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