Who exactly does it benefit?
We are all familiar with the 2014 Immigration Act which aims to curb the influx of illegal immigrants in the UK. But with the introduction of the new “Right To Rent” Legislation, motioned from 1 February 2016, professionals from all sectors of mobility are forced to ask: who exactly does it benefit?
This new legislation dictates that UK landlords could face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant should they fail to carry out detailed checks on their tenants’ right to rent in the UK, a move that is supposed to prevent landlords from knowingly renting out their properties to illegal immigrants. But some people argue that this new piece of legislation will have a different kind of impact, believing that landlords will simply just become reluctant to rent out their properties to anyone with a foreign background, causing a whole new debate as to whether it is going to increase discrimination against minority ethnicities. In a recent study, 27% of landlords said that they are less likely to engage with those with a foreign accent or name, and 42% said that the new Right to Rent Legislation has made them less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport. However according to a pilot scheme that ran for 6 months in the West Midlands, there were “no major differences” for rentals between white British and any other ethnic tenants. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) members seems to think that they are in a no win situation, believing that they could either “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants,” potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks,” thus opening themselves up to accusations of racism. It is a hard one to judge.
There has also been concern that the homeless will struggle now even more to find housing, as many of them do not have passports or visas, and may find it hard to obtain them. Six of the local charities in the surveyed area said that people they represent had become homeless due to the Right to Rent legislation, or were struggling to find somewhere to live. Immigration minister, James Brokenshire, says that these checks are “quick and simple” and are about “deterring those who are illegally resident from remaining in the UK. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected.” So that begs the question; what about those who can’t?
Of course, there are benefits. Strict rules and required follow up checks will ensure that any lazy or careless landlords are punished and will encourage property owners to be more responsible in the future. It will also make sure that illegal immigrants have less places to hide, although once found, it is unsure of the action that will be taken.
So does this new act benefit landlords (and us) by ensuring they do not unknowingly welcome illegal immigrants into their properties, or does it cloud their judgement when assessing prospective tenants, meaning they find it harder to let their properties, costing them money and intensifying the ever present issue of racism and discrimination?