The UK private rented sector has grown significantly over the past few years, increasing from 3.8 million households in 2011/12 to 4.7 million households in 2017/18 (MHCLG, 2018). At the same time, the PRS has seen increasing political focus and regulative changes (Simcock, 2018), and these changes at a policy level have not been necessarily joined-up (Whitehead & Williams, 2018). One specific policy change has been introduction of the Right to Rent checks under the Immigration Act 2014, which has essentially made landlords border agents (Crawford, Leahy & McKee, 2016). These changes have placed further duties upon landlords, especially when they now have to navigate a more complex and rapidly transforming regulatory landscape. The Right to Rent checks have the potential to lock vulnerable individuals out of the private rented sector and to cause discrimination (JCWI, 2017; Simcock, 2017).
Over the past few years, we have monitored the impact of this policy, and we have undertaken this research to further the understanding of how this policy is being implemented in the private rented sector. The responses from 2,963 landlords reveal that their behaviour is changing due to the fear of prosecution under their obligations of this policy. Yet, enforcement challenges of the scheme underline lack of effectiveness in deterring irregular migration. Our research provides a timely review of the impact of the policy on the private rented sector and we explore the wider implications of this scheme. The findings clearly show that the scheme is impacting vulnerable citizens and migrants, while hardly having any significant enforcement outcome (JCWI, 2017).
- The majority of landlords are aware of the Right to Rent scheme, our findings show that 92% landlords are aware of the scheme, and 86% reported they were aware of the criminal sanctions introduced by the Immigration Act 2016. However, further work is needed to ensure all landlords are aware of their responsibilities under this policy.
- 44% of landlords reported they are less likely to consider letting to individuals without a British passport. This is likely to lock vulnerable individuals out of accessing a home in the private rented sector, especially as at the last census 17% of the population of England and Wales reported they did not have a passport (ONS, 2012a).
- Furthermore, this policy is likely to have implications for migrants that currently have the right to rent and are living in the UK. 53% of landlords are less likely to consider letting to people with limited time to remain and 20% are less likely to consider renting to EU or EEA nationals.
- Information from the Home Office shows that Civil Penalty powers have been used significantly more than the power to prosecute criminal landlords. To date there have been no prosecutions of landlords for Right to Rent breaches. In comparison, the Home Office issued 391 Civil Penalties during 2016/17 and 2017/18, and on average having 0 Civil Penalties every month in 2017/18.
- In 2016/17 the Home Office levied £102,00 in Civil Penalty notices, and £149,000 in 2017/18. Plausibly, an average penalty of around £600 is unlikely to deter landlords who knowingly let to irregular migrants. We believe the contribution the Civil Penalties have on creating the ‘hostile environment’ is negligible. On the other hand, the Right to Rent scheme is creating a fearful environment for landlords and tenants alike.