Right to rent immigration checks ‘unworkable’

Landlords and letting agents lack the necessary know-how and training to enforce right to rent immigration checks, a leading London property firm has warned, as it condemned proposed sanctions as ‘disproportionate’.

Right to rent checks were introduced towards the end of the Coalition government, to help combat concerns landlords were harbouring illegal immigrants in their properties. Those who fail to verify the immigration status of their tenants face fines of up to £5,000.

The scheme has been piloted in the Midlands, where it has led to additional fees for tenants according to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Immigration was a major political issue during the general election, and all the main parties promised a crackdown. Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, and since returning to power with a Conservative majority has set up an immigration taskforce to help make this a reality.

But passing responsibility for managing immigration onto landlords and their agents is misguided, says property consultancy Daniel Watney LLP. Landlords are unlikely to have the knowledge or resources required, and as such the fines proposed are punitive.

There are also concerns that professional landlords are not on a level playing field, with those offering short-term lets, such as Airbnb, not subject to the same requirements.

Far better, argues Julian Goddard, head of residential at Daniel Watney, would be for government agencies to take an integrated approach to immigration.

Julian Goddard, head of residential at Daniel Watney, said:

“Current plans to force landlords and agents to monitor immigration are unworkable. Landlords are not trained immigration enforcement officers, and are unlikely to know the difference between a real and fake visa.”

“There also seems to be no real impetus to ensure those offering short-term lets, like Airbnb, are checking the immigration status of their tenants. So to fine landlords for failing to do the job of the border agency, while ignoring others, borders on ludicrous.”

“If the government is serious about tackling the very real issue of illegal immigration, encouraging government agencies to share information and take a collaborative approach would be of far more use.”