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Immigration solicitor criticises government over Right to Rent

An immigration law solicitor has warned that almost three-quarters of private residential landlords in the UK don't understand the implications of the government's new Right to Rent scheme.

Paragon Law's Mark Lilley-Tams made the claim at an exclusive seminar - entitled Right to Rent: do landlords need to become immigration officers? - held in Nottingham recently. The talk attracted 40 local residential property figures.

Lilley-Tams and Ali Baylav, CEO of residential lettings agency Cavendish Lettings, gave a presentation and responded to questions about the contoversial government scheme. Right to Rent, which became law on 1 February 2016, requires all landlords to check that private tenants have the right to reside in the UK. It has been piloted in the West Midlands since December 2014, with criticism coming from all quarters that it was being rolled out too quickly and without the necessary amount of planning or consultation.

"This is a complicated piece of legislation, and it will take time for the dust to settle," Lilley-Tams commented. "Right to Rent is part of the government's package of legislation to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants that includes removing the right to open bank accounts and holding a driving licence."

He added: "However, landlords are also suffering from a chronic lack of information from the government. Latest figures show that 90 per cent of residential landlords have received no information about Right to Rent and what they need to do. Neither are landlords clear what sort of guidance is needed. It's a very muddled picture right now."

Ali Baylav said, of the 450 landlords Cavendish Lettings reprsents, not one of them had received any correspondence from the Home Office aimed at explaining Right to Rent. "I find that incredible," he added.    

"Evidencing the right to be in the UK is a difficult process given the wide array of different documents available to prove this and landlords are generally not experts on immigration law," Lilley-Tams continued. "Delays in proving the right to rent can be expensive and time-consuming for landlords and that is before you factor in the risk of civil fines, imprisonment and even uncapped discrimination claims if they make a mistake or fail to correctly store the documents they rely upon."

He concluded: "The feedback we have from the pilot area is that landlords really do not feel comfortable with this added responsibility of carrying out immigration checks and the threat of criminal sanctions will not make this burden any easier.”

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