It was announced last week (3rd September) that the government is to start running pilots in areas in the north of England from the beginning of December under Section 22 of Immigration Act 2014 where all landlords, including private sector landlords, will have to take ‘reasonable’ steps to prove a prospective tenant has the “right to rent”. One must question whether this is a reasonable expectation to have of private landlords.
In the pilot areas, everyone will have to provide things like birth certificates, driving licence, passports or similar before they can look to rent somewhere. Everyone will have to be checked so that letting agents, landlords and others can avoid discrimination cases. If this gets rolled out across England, as the Government plans, it will be a massive hurdle for our clients, and especially our homeless clients to have this information. No doubt this will be something else letting agencies will charge for, with both landlords and prospective tenants paying, adding to the already crippling fees charged by some agents.
How will people who have lost their documents pay for new birth certificates or other proof of identity? At First Base Day Centre we have a fund (which is quite depleted at the moment) to help people pay for replacement documentation. But not all areas have somewhere like First Base. It is already a very competitive and challenging market for our clients to access private rented accommodation across our geographical areas.
Landlords may decide to leave the lettings market in fear of getting financial penalties for not understanding this tricky area.
I hope that the government pays close attention to the experiences in the pilot areas and does not steamroll this regulation nationwide as it seems to be doing with the Universal Credit in spite of alarm bells that are ringing in its pilot areas.