Landlords are being warned that guidance recently published by the Home Office on the Government’s Right to Rent scheme could lead them to breaking the law, according to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
The updated guidance document on how to comply with Right to Rent, a scheme rolled out nationally in 2016 under then-home secretary Theresa May, contradicts the legally-binding Code of Practice agreed by Parliament, says the RLA.
The recently published document, titled ‘A short guide on right to rent’, advises that when a prospective tenant is a foreign national of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea or the United States and plans to stay in the UK for up to six months, landlords need only check their passport and airline ticket to determine whether they have the right to rent in the UK.
This information differs from the official code of practice that states landlords must be shown clear evidence from the Home Office that individuals from certain countries have the right, either permanent, or for a time limited period, to reside in the UK.
No legal cover for landlords
A corresponding change to this Code of Practice by Parliament is needed in order to make up for this disconnect, and to give landlords adequate legal cover when renting to tenants from certain countries for longer than six months, says the RLA.
If tenants from the aforementioned countries, collectively known as B5JSSK nationals, choose to stay in the country for more than half a year, those renting accommodation to them could be left open to prosecution.
The Right to Rent scheme has faced considerable opposition since it was introduced as part of the Home Office’s “Hostile Environment” measures. Under this policy, private landlords face up to five years of potential imprisonment, if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that their property is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.
After a Judicial Review, the High Court ruled that discrimination by landlords was taking place due to this scheme and blocked the department from rolling it out to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A new low
David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said the guidance was “a new low in the sorry saga of the Right to Rent”.
He added: “Having already been ruled to be discriminatory by the High Court, the government is now putting out guidance which could leave landlords open to prosecution. It reinforces once again that the Right to Rent policy needs to go and go now.”