The controversial Right to Rent checks, forcing landlords and letting agents to check whether tenants can legally rent a property in England, could be amended following Brexit negotiations.
Right to Rent Overview
The Right to Rent checks were introduced in England by the Government in 2016. The scheme requires landlords who let properties to carry out checks on the immigration status of potential tenants, as part of the Government’s plan to drive out illegal migrants.
Introduced by Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, the checks were rolled out in England just over a year ago. The Government now intends to implement the Right to Rent checks throughout the whole of the UK, although a date is yet to be confirmed.
If a landlord fails to check a tenant's right to rent in England, and they are found to be living in the UK without permission, they could face a fine of up to £3,000.
Last month, the Queen’s speech contained proposals for eight bills which could be implemented ahead of Britain's exit from the EU. The Queen’s speech stated: “With the repeal of the European Communities Act, it will be necessary to establish new powers concerning the immigration status of EEA nationals. The Bill will allow the government to control the number of people coming here from Europe while still allowing us to attract the brightest and the best.
The Bill will:
Allow for the repeal of EU law on immigration, primarily free movement, that will
otherwise, be saved and converted into UK law by the Repeal Bill;
Make the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to the relevant UK law once the UK has left the EU.”
So, how could Brexit and the restriction of freedom of movement affect Right to Rent checks and students in England? Danielle Cullen, Managing Director at StudentTenant.com, comments:
“Following Brexit, we will obviously see amendments to the immigration bill, which is inevitably going to affect the Right to Rent Scheme. There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding whether the UK will remain part of the single market, and we still have no idea whether freedom of movement for other EU nationals to the UK will remain. Many landlords still aren’t even aware they have to do the checks as it is, further changes and responsibilities placed on them will be unfair.
So far, we haven’t heard much concrete evidence on how the Government is going to change the bill, but we’re certain that we will see some changes following the push to reduce net migration and immigrants living in the UK. As part of the Brexit campaign, proposals were made for a control visa system for EU nationals, and whether a EU national has a “Right to Rent” in the UK anymore will become a much more complex question. If negotiations don’t work out in favour of EU nationals living in the UK, there could be a rise in ‘unlawful’ migrants which could mean landlords inadvertently renting to someone who no-longer qualifies for immigration status.”
Whilst the Immigration Bill has no set timetable on when it will be announced, reports on the Higher Education and Research bill suggest that international students will remain unaffected by immigration changes. In early 2017, Lord Hannay of Chiswick inserted the following clause into the Higher Education and Research Bill report:
“The Secretary of State shall ensure that no student, who has received an offer to study at such a higher education provider, be treated for public policy purposes as a long term migrant to the UK, for the duration of their studies.”
The clause is set to protect international students right to live in the UK:
Danielle continues, “We’re already seeing evidence that Brexit is looking to be damaging for universities, and ultimately, the student housing sector. There has been a significant dip in applications from EU students this year, coupled with a general decrease in numbers, which is starting to affect the number of vacant student properties in the UK. The Government must protect the rights of International students, not only for higher education establishments, but also for the student housing sector. We could see a fall in student accommodation demand as the number of EU students applying to UK universities further decreases in years to come.
Despite suggestions that students are set to be protected in terms of the ease of them obtaining long term migrant status, this is meaningless for landlords having to check their Right to Rent status. I can only see legislative changes making the whole process significantly more complex, and feel for landlords who have had little to no support already in relation to the current regulations.”