A new government scheme may make landlords wary of non-EU renters

The accidental landlord says measures to clamp down on illegal immigrants will mean landlords freeze out non-EU renters...
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I've never thought of myself as racist, but I think from next year some landlords will be wary of letting to foreigners, or at least to anyone from outside the European Union. That's appalling, I know, but I think it's inevitable due to a new government scheme.

Personally I don't care whether my tenants come from Tooting or Timbuktu — their nationality is no concern of mine. All that matters is that they pay their rent on time and behave themselves.

However, the Government's confirmation earlier this month that it intends to make landlords responsible for policing illegal immigration — and fine or even imprison those of us who let to tenants who don't have a legal right to live in the UK — will make many landlords less comfortable about taking tenants who require visas.

A Right to Rent scheme will be rolled out across England from 2016, which will mean that landlords will have to check that every tenant who doesn't have an automatic right to live here has a valid visa.

If we don't know whether they need a visa, or if we're unsure that the visa we are shown is valid, we will have to check with the Home Office, which will take a few days. That's not too onerous, assuming we are not duped into accepting a forgery.

What is more of a worry is that when our tenants' visas expire, or if their application for asylum is rejected, we will have to evict them.

To make it easier to boot out asylum seekers, the Home Office will issue landlords with a notice when their tenant's application has been rejected. This notice will allow the landlord to evict the tenant without the need to go through the usual lengthy and expensive process of obtaining a court order.

However, it hasn't said how landlords should go about evicting tenants whose visas have expired. I often let rooms to some of the thousands of young travellers and students who come to London every year to work or study, and I can see these new rules creating a massive problem for them.

By law, landlords must offer tenants a minimum six-month contract, so how will those tenants whose visas are due to expire in less than six months find accommodation? Landlords might not want to accept them any more because one law says we are not allowed to evict them until six months are up, but another says we must if their visas have run out. There are lots of people who take on tenancies for longer than the duration of their visa because they intend to apply for an extension or renewal, but in future they might struggle to find accommodation because landlords won't want to risk being forced to evict them if their application fails.

Quite rightly it is illegal to discriminate against tenants based on their nationality — guidelines on Right to Rent make it clear landlords should not refuse to let to someone with a "time-limited right to stay in the UK". Landlords who discriminate can be prosecuted under the Equality Act 2010 and fined.

But once these new rules are applied, I can see some landlords discreetly choosing tenants from Britain and the EU over those who require visas. If that is racist, then I think it is the fault of Right to Rent.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock.

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