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Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Lawful Tenants Refused Rental Properties
Because Of Right To Rent Immigration Checks

Right to Rent immigration checks could cause more UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords to refuse tenancy applications from lawful tenants because they are over cautious about letting to tenants with foreign accents and names or have unfamiliar identity documents.

According to the Residential Landlords Association, (RLA), the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into unpaid Border Agency staff could see lawful tenants being refused housing.

The warning comes as new research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) indicates the difficulties caused by the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, originally piloted in the West Midlands, concluding that UK PRS landlords Right to Rent checks have resulted in discrimination against tenants who appear “foreign”.

The JCWI research discovered that:

  • 42% of landlords were less likely to consider tenant applications from someone who did not have a British passport,
  • 27% of landlords were reluctant to engage with tenancy applications from people with foreign accents or names

Under the new immigration bill, PRS landlords are set to be legally responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants. Following the pilot scheme in the West Midlands, the Government recently announced that the immigration checks by landlords would be expanded nationwide, with landlords facing up to five years in prison for failure to undertake the Right to Rent checks.

Residential Landlords Association policy director, David Smith, said: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety for many landlords. If the Government expect landlords to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them. In the absence of such support, today’s research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy which the RLA has long voiced concerns about. Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them. It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the Right to Rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area. Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its rollout to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”

The research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants comes before the publication of the Home Office’s own assessment of the Right to Rent pilot scheme detailing its level of effectiveness.

There seems to be a huge communication breakdown somewhere, we as landlords are now unpaid members of the UK Border Agency, like it or not, we mustn’t discriminate against any tenant applicant because it is an “ism” and can be punished by imprisonment and a large fine, however, if we house someone in need, we leave ourselves open to prosecution and a large fine. If we act in a professional manner, we are accused of not caring, but if we have too much contact with tenants we are seen as overbearing and interfering. If we spend money on properties we are seen as rich money grabbers that are open to exploitation and if we don’t spend vast amounts to correct damage caused by tenant lifestyles as and when tenants demand then we are called tight and heartless. Homeless charities want the UK PRS closed down, the Government want as much of our profits as they can get their hands on and the media think we are all descendants of Rachman and Rigsby – How is the system supposed to work?

Fraudulent tenancies on the increase in the UK

Are Tenant Applicants Really Who They Claim To Be?

UK Landlords and letting agents are being warned about an increase in bogus tenant applications.

Fraudulent applicants have been filling out tenancy application forms provided by honest landlords and agents, giving inaccurate or misleading information, in a bid to secure the rental of the property.

It is not unknown for the fraudsters to move from property to property, with no intention of keeping up with the rent, even within the same small town.

Fraudulent tenants often give false information on where they have been living previously to throw referencing companies and letting agents off the trail.

They are also very difficult to evict as the more professional bad tenants appear to know their way round the legal system. Eviction of these “professional bad tenants” is better left to an eviction specialist such as Legal 4 Landlords.

Tenant fraud has been problem for letting agents and landlords alike for a number of years and is apparently on the increase in some parts of the UK.

It is essential that landlords and their agents have a checklist for new tenants that include obtaining ID documents and proof of current residency at the earliest stages of a tenancy application.

Landlords and their agents need to be alert for anything unusual that could increase the risk for the landlord.

Comprehensive tenant referencing services are a vital tool for landlords and letting agents to spot anomalies, oddities and the potential for fraud in all tenancy applications.

Tips for landlords and letting agents to help reduce Tenant Fraud.

  • Request photo ID
  • Obtain a credit check – individuals with good credit histories are generally good tenants.
  • Use a professional company, such as Legal 4 Landlords for thorough tenant referencing
  • Get references from employers – Obtain written references and where possible speak to the employer personally
  • Get references from all previous landlords – although references from landlords may need to be taken with a pinch of salt as some landlords just want to get rid of problem tenants and will give good references.
  • Obtain copies of payslips and bank statements
  • Compare addresses shown on the application with those shown on ID documents
  • Look at what kind of car the prospective tenant drives
  • Trust your gut instinct
  • Do not take anything at face value

Landlords are urged to double check everything and if they have any reasonable suspicion that things are not quite what they seem, then they should refuse the tenancy, no matter how desperate they are to get someone in their property. Letting to a dishonest tenant will cost the landlord even more financial heartache in the long term.

Landlords should also beware of another common practice employed by dishonest tenants – subletting!

Sub-letting is an illegal practice that the UK Government are trying to stamp out, however it has become a common practice among fraudsters in the private rented sector, (PRS).

When tenants have accepted the landlord’s terms and conditions regarding the tenancy, signed the AST and apparently appear to have moved in. Only to rent the property out again to another unsuspecting dupe at a profit. Often in cases where this happens the bogus tenant will abscond with everyones money, leaving the sub-letting tenant homeless and the poor, unsuspecting landlord high and dry.

When a landlord carries out regular periodic property maintenance, they should check that the occupier is still the same person named on the assured shorthold tenancy agreement, (AST).

Insurance is a must!

Specialist Insurance provides landlords and tenants with peace of mind

UK landlords should already be aware of the necessity, legality and financial importance of having the right insurance protecting their property asset and should always seek to get their rental properties suitably covered with a comprehensive landlord or Buy-To-Let insurance policy.

However, whilst landlords stay insured keeping their property assets protected, very few tenants bother to investing in contents insurance or specialist tenant insurance.

Even though the tenants don’t own the property and are therefore not responsible for the actual bricks and mortar, the property does still contain all of their personal belongings, including important documents and irreplaceable mementoes and so insurance should be an important consideration.

In the event of a claim having to be made, in the case of a fire, for example, tenants may have mistakenly thought they would automatically be covered by the landlord and tried to claim for loss of their important and expensive items from the Landlords Insurance policy, the landlord would receive compensation for the damage to the property, whilst the tenants would find, in most cases, that their claims were unsuccessful and they would be left with nothing.

Tenant Insurance is a necessity is because it is highly unlikely that any tenant belongings will be covered by the landlords insurance. The landlord should have insurance cover to protect the fabric of the building itself, (including certain contents such as the kitchen cupboards, bathroom fixtures etc) and even cover for loss of rent but not the contents of the tenants.
Tenant insurance will also help to protect the tenant’s deposit as good policies cover tenants against accidental damage.

Read the full article on Legal 4 Landlords Blog

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