Right to Rent checks could reduce Tenant trust

Despite reports of the success of the right-to-rent pilot running in the West Midlands, one landlord organisation thinks lawful tenants could be refused housing due to the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into “border police” and others think it could damage landlord-tenant relations.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warning comes as new research indicates some difficulties caused by the Government’s ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, piloted in the West Midlands.

Research conducted by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) concluded with the view that Right to Rent checks have in some cases resulted in discrimination against tenants who appear “foreign”.

The study found that 42 per cent of landlords are less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport, while 27 per cent of landlords are reluctant to engage with those with foreign accents or names.

And Access Legal, a referral and support network that supports legal practices, fears that the scheme could upset the “apparently harmonious and respectful relationship that exists between most landlords and tenants”.

A survey conducted by AXA the insurers concludes that there currently exists a lot of good will between landlords and their tenants with 48 per cent of tenants surveyed stating that they had a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ relationship with their landlord.

AXA’s findings show that currently most areas of concern between landlords and tenants arise through repair issues: their results showed that of the tenant population questioned, 43 per cent of their landlords did not carry out the annual gas safety check, 54 per cent had not installed a fire alarm and 71 per cent had not yet installed a carbon monoxide alarm, though legislation requiring landlords to do so by the 1st of October has not yet been implemented. It is also not entirely clear whether the tenants questioned believed that CO detectors are required in all situations, when in fact these only apply when solid fuel appliances are used.

Despite these important areas of concern it is interesting to note that the vast majority of tenants throughout the UK were very positive about their landlords, describing them as ‘helpful’, ‘responsible’, ‘trustworthy’ and ‘caring’.

28 per cent of tenants from the AXA survey said their landlord had done something ‘nice’ for them such as gift giving on birthdays, forgiving a late payment in difficult times and offering help above and beyond what might be reasonably expected.

Eamonn Hogan, who heads up Access Legal’s landlord law team, says:

“Our own survey suggested that only 7% of the respondents became a landlord as a career and some 80% indicated that they were landlords only as a “side job”.  Many people are slipping into the role through circumstance rather than design, and although they may have good intentions, they are simply not aware of all of their legal obligations and responsibilities.”

Despite these highlighted difficulties with the Right to Rent scheme, the government is pressing ahead with the nationwide roll-out which is likely to take place later in the year. If any tenants are found to have false documentation, the landlord could face fines of up to £3,000 or in extreme cases, up to five years in jail.

It will also be the case that landlords will need to follow-up on the eligibility of tenants to remain in the country as tenancies proceed, adding considerably to the part-time landlord’s work-load. Landlords will also need to be careful not to fall foul of the discrimination laws by ensuring that all tenancy applicants are put through the same checking and screening process.

Article courtsey of LandlordZone

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