Landlords are warning that ignorance over the government’s Right to Rent rules could lead to landlords discriminating against European tenants in a bid to avoid legal difficulties.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said ministers have failed to publish any guidance for landlords about the implications of Brexit for the Right to Rent scheme.
At present Right to Rent is still being trialled and landlords are obliged to check the residency status of all potential tenants over the age of 18 in the 28 days before the start of any contract even if the individual is not named on the tenancy agreement.
Landlords do not need to check social housing tenants, those in a hostel, mobile home or student accommodation. However, failure to do required checks could result in an unlimited penalty or a jail term.
With two thirds of all EU nationals in the country living in private rented housing, the Residential Landlords Association is worried that landlords have received no specific guidance about their status, other than ‘sweeping statements’ by ministers.
Human rights issue
Last month, a High Court Judge ruled that the right to rent scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it led to inadvertent discrimination against non-UK nationals.
Justice Spencer noted that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the scheme” and concluded that “the government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity.”
The RLA’s most recent research suggests that around a fifth of landlords are less likely to rent to nationals from the EU or the European Economic Area as a result of the Right to Rent, a figure the RLA warns could increase post-Brexit.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “Landlords are not border police and cannot be expected to know who does and who does not have the right to live here.
“The government needs to publish clear and practical guidance for landlords about the implications of Brexit on who they can and cannot rent to. If they do not, more landlords will become increasingly fearful about renting to non-UK nationals with the potential of facing penalties.
“The result will be they will avoid renting to anyone who is not a UK national making life difficult for EU nationals.”
Victoria is group editor, Mortgage Solutions and Your Mortgage at AE3 Media.
Previous titles include editor of What Mortgage and Credit Today and a stint freelancing for various titles, including The Guardian, Which? and Money.co.uk