The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has published his inspection report on the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme.
The completed report was sent to the Home Secretary on 7 February 2018.
The Immigration Act 2014 introduced a range of ‘hostile environment’ measures (since renamed ‘compliant environment’ measures by the Home Office). The government used the Immigration Act 2016 to extend a number of these.
At the end of 2016, I reported on the ‘hostile environment’ measures relating to driving licences and bank and building society accounts and, separately, on those relating to sham marriages. At the time, I signalled my intention to look at all of the measures in due course.
This inspection focused on the measures introduced in relation to ‘Residential Tenancies’. These were aimed at preventing persons disqualified by immigration status from renting accommodation. The key difference between the “Right to Rent (RtR)” scheme and the measures I inspected earlier is that, instead of government agencies, officials or institutions, it relies on compliance with the ‘new’ legislation by private citizens, that is landlords (plus letting agents or sub-letters).
Under the 2014 Act, landlords are required to carry out ‘reasonable enquiries’ to establish that prospective tenants have the “right to rent” before agreeing to lease them premises ‘for residential use’. The 2016 Act introduced a criminal offence of knowingly leasing a property to a disqualified person, with a sentence of up to 5 years’ imprisonment, or fine, or both. It also included powers to enable landlords to terminate tenancies where the tenant is a disqualified individual.
This inspection looked at the Home Office’s development of the RtR scheme, its implementation and initial evaluation, the operational response by Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams and others, and what monitoring and evaluation there had been of RtR since it was rolled out across England. The report also summarises concerns from stakeholders about the impact of RtR on issues such as discrimination by landlords against particular groups or types of prospective tenants, exploitation and homelessness, but does not set out to examine and test these concerns thoroughly.
Overall, I found that the RtR scheme had yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.
My report contains 4 recommendations, all of which point to the need for more grip and urgency.