Author: ITV REPORT
More than 400 fines have been issued to landlords under a Government crackdown on illegal immigration, figures show.
As of the end of March, 405 financial penalties with a total value of £265,000 had been handed out since the Right to Rent scheme was introduced across England just over two years earlier.
Right to Rent requires landlords to establish tenants or lodgers have a right to be in the country by taking copies of documents such as passports or identity cards.
Those who fail to comply risk being penalised if it is determined they have let property to someone who is in the UK unlawfully.
Authorities can issue fines of up to £3,000 per tenant, while those who knowingly lease a property to a disqualified person could face criminal proceedings and up to five years in prison.
While hundreds of fines have been issued under the civil penalty regime, an inspection report published in March said there had been no prosecutions.
First trialled in the West Midlands before being introduced across England from February 2016, Right to Rent forms part of the Government’s efforts to create a “hostile environment” for people in the country illegally.
The clampdown – later renamed as the “compliant environment” – has come under sharp focus in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
The approach was designed to deny illegal immigrants access to work, accommodation and other services in anticipation this would encourage individuals to leave the country voluntarily.
But the Windrush episode prompted fierce criticism of the strategy after people who have lived and worked in Britain legally for decades were wrongly challenged over their immigration status.
After the scandal emerged, the Home Office issued guidance to landlords to clarify that prospective tenants who have lived in the UK permanently since before 1973, and who have not been away for long periods in the last 30 years, have the right to rent property.
Press Association analysis of official data on Right to Rent shows the number and total value of fines increased for five consecutive quarters before falling from the middle of last year.
The most recent figures show 39 penalties with a total value of £23,500 were issued from January to March 2018.
The number of fines in the first three months of this year was the lowest since the final quarter of 2016, when 36 were issued.
Earlier this year a watchdog concluded that Right to Rent had “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance”.
The assessment by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Bolt cited figures showing a fall in the number of voluntary returns from the UK over the period the scheme has been in place.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to review Right to Rent.
Chris Norris, director of policy and practice at the NLA, said the latest figures “would seem to show that landlords are more aware of their responsibilities and are carrying out the required checks”.
He added: “However, it is important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents.
“The Right to Rent scheme has placed an additional cost on an already pressurised sector, while the excessive checks and lack of monitoring may have had harmful consequences for would-be and vulnerable tenants.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “It’s right that we have a compliant environment to deter illegal immigration and protect public services and it is a policy that has been operated under successive governments.
“The Right to Rent checks were developed with the input of the Landlords Consultative Panel and there is online guidance as well as a helpline to ensure the scheme is fully understood.”
The department also pointed to an announcement by the Home Secretary last week that historical cases are being reviewed to check if any people from Caribbean Commonwealth countries who arrived in the UK before 1973 have been affected by “compliant environment” measures.