A controversial Act to say the least, the provision within the Immigration Act 2014 puts the onus on private sector landlords to scrutinise a prospective tenant’s immigration status before entering in to a tenancy agreement. The West Midlands Council are the first to pilot the scheme, which received overwhelming opposition from landlords at the consultation stage. With 82% of the Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA’s) members opposed to the scheme and over half of those responding to the consultation opposed to the policy, the RLA asserted that:
"untrained British civilians” should not be expected to undertake the work of immigration officials
Theresa May seems to think that is exactly what landlords should be doing and has pressed on despite such significant opposition.
The Chartered Institute of Housing raised concerns that the measures would result in discriminatory practices:
Recent migrants overwhelmingly rely on the private rented sector and already often occupy poorer quality lettings. It seems likely that if a prospective tenant is not obviously British landlords may simply reject them, given the pressures in the sector at the moment, the competition for tenancies and the potential delay if further checks are needed.
Such discrimination will be very difficult to uncover given that landlords will be making simultaneous enquiries about bank accounts, references etc. which will give them other grounds for rejecting an application.”
The Government’s response to this point is to issue a Code of Guidance reminding landlords of their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.
For Housing lawyers, attempting to clarify a client’s immigration status is often an arduous and time-consuming business. The guidance for landlords on this is 30 pages long and the further guide on avoiding unlawful discrimination in applying the code, 16 pages. At a time when there is such great demand on the private sector tenancy market, which is effectively a cottage industry, where landlords can choose who they let their property to, it’s an obvious conclusion that discrimination will follow. The Government has no method of measuring the fall out and the concept of “right to rent” is sadly just another way of marginalising those who are subject to immigration control.