As I reported in the spring, the government has introduced tougher measures against landlords who fail to meet their regulations. One of the most controversial of these is the Right to Rent rules, obliging a landlord to make sure all tenants are in the country legally.
This has created a whole extra layer of bureaucracy for landlords and letting agents. The BBC has revealed, though, that fraudsters are making their position impossible with a thriving business in forged documents that will fool anyone but an expert.
Right to Rent
The Right to Rent rules were controversial when they were introduced, since it seemed to many that the government was forcing landlords to act as unpaid immigration officers. Before agreeing to rent a property, a landlord or letting agency must examine passports and other documents to make sure they’re not renting to an illegal immigrant.
Even for established letting agencies, this has meant a crash course in immigration law and more work — and hence higher charges to the landlord, the tenant, or both. Landlords acting for themselves have had to try and learn about a topic that normally requires trained personnel.
It’s a universal rule that, as fast as the government introduces regulations, the fraudsters will find a way to profit from them. An undercover investigation in London by the BBC’s Inside Out programme has revealed how easy it is to buy forged documents. Though the fraudsters warn their clients against showing them to immigration officers, they’re convincing enough to fool anyone not trained to spot a forgery.
This potentially puts landlords in an impossible position. Though the Home Office has issued a statement in response saying that landlords are not expected to be experts, they’re silent on how far the law will understand these limitations. Rather worryingly, they’ve refused to provide data on prosecutions and sentences under these rules.
The situation seems to be hurting both landlords and legitimate tenants. Terrified of making a false move and being fined or even imprisoned, many landlords are now turning down anyone who looks foreign or doesn’t have a UK passport, even if they have the right to be here.
At the same time, landlords are between a rock and a hard place. It’s easy to foresee many deciding it’s not worth the risk and simply giving up letting. No-one wins — except the fraudsters, of course.
If you’re a landlord who’s worried about how this may affect you, why not get in touch with me for a chat?