All private landlords in England will have to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property, the government has announced.
The move will be implemented from February next year. Under the new rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s “right to rent” will face penalties of up to £3,000 per resident.
The new law will mean that private landlords, including those who sub-let or take in lodgers, must check the right of prospective tenants to be in the country. However, the Labour party has said the initiative could cause “everyday racism” and “widespread discrimination” in the housing market.
Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said it could cause problems for “anyone with a foreign-sounding name”.
Society had advanced since landlords used to display discriminatory messages in their windows in the 1960s, he added. “But the new document checks could become the modern equivalent of the “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs and, by being more insidious, such casual discrimination will be far harder to challenge,” Burnham said.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: “Right to Rent checks are quick and simple, and many responsible landlords already do them as a matter of routine. We are providing landlords with all the advice they need before the checks go live.
“Right to Rent is about deterring those who are illegally residents from remaining in the UK. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be affected.”
The Home Office said checks had to be made “on a non-discriminatory basis”. Under the scheme, landlords should check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies.
The government has insisted checks are backed up by codes of practice – including guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination which was drawn up with the assistance of the Human Rights Commission.
If a potential tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, landlords can conduct a check on that person’s “right to rent” via the Checking Service.