The Immigration Act 2014 gives all EU nationals the automatic right to rent property in the UK. Recent figures from the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) show that private rentals are popular, with 66% of the EU nationals currently living in the UK choosing this option. However, landlords and their representatives are starting to ask how Brexit might affect this situation.
Unsurprisingly, it is the prospect of a no-deal prospect that concerns landlords (and doubtless also their tenants) most. As yet, the government shows no signs of confirming that any post-Brexit transitional period will apply to the ability of EU citizens to rent in the private sector. Without such comfort, landlords are in a tricky position: should existing tenancies be renewed and is it all right to create new ones for EU citizens? The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has highlighted a further concern.
Without the government agreeing to give EU citizens with settled status any sort of documentation proving their right to remain in the UK after Brexit, there is a risk that more and more landlords will opt for the easier decision of renting only to those with British passports. Current figures from the RLA suggest that 48% of landlords admit they are likely to choose this option.
These concerns stem largely from the right to rent immigration checks. First launched in February 2016, right to rent immigration checks now carry a criminal penalty in the form of an unlimited fine and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years for those landlords who rent to anyone without the right to reside in the country.
Moreover, it is not only EU citizens who are at risk from landlords who take a “no passport no rental agreement” approach. An estimated 17% of UK adult nationals do not have a British passport. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they, too, may find private renting increasingly difficult without government intervention.
The RLA has now requested that the government suspend the right to rent immigration checks until a full examination of its efficacy has been conducted. David Smith, the RLA policy director, said, ‘Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of border agencies.’ The JCWI agrees, with Chai Patel, its legal policy officer commenting that the Home Office has ‘no idea’ whether or not the policy actually reduces irregular migration.
Together, the two organizations have received permission from the High Court to bring a judicial review challenge over the policy. In the meantime, concerned landlords and their tenants must watch this space.
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