Private landlords in the UK are refusing to rent homes to EU citizens in a bid to avoid new government regulations, a study has found.
According to a Residential Landlords Association (RLA) survey, almost one in five landlords say they are less likely to rent their properties to EU nationals because of the checks they must now complete on tenants who are not British citizens.
Under the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, people renting out homes were made responsible for ensuring their tenants have a legal right to be in the UK.
The scheme was introduced in the Immigration Act 2014, and came into effect last year. It was designed to crack down on illegal immigrants but research suggests it causes landlords to refuse to rent their properties to non-UK citizens because of the extra bureaucracy.
Landlords say having to check tenants’ immigration status places an excessive burden on them, and that they fear being heavily fined or imprisoned for up to five years if they fail to comply with the regulations.
As a result, EU citizens are seeing their access to rented homes significantly restricted. Seventeen per cent of landlords now say they are less likely to rent to EU nationals.
David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, said: “The Government is leaving landlords and EU nationals in a state of legal limbo over their housing.
“Ministers need to urgently set out the steps that will be taken to enable landlords to easily identify which EU nationals will and won’t have the right to rent.
“Without this, and faced with the threat of prosecution for getting things wrong, landlords will only become even more cautious about renting to EU nationals.”
Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This disgraceful policy has created exactly the kind of environment that will drive EU nationals away. Moreover, to infringe on their rights in this manner is not only morally questionable, but whilst we remain in the EU may be legally questionable.
“But what else could we expect from the Prime Minister who as Home Secretary gave us ‘Go Home’ vans?”
Earlier this year, a report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found close to half (42 per cent) of landlords said they were less likely to rent to a tenant who does not have a British passport.
In a mystery shopper exercise exposing widespread discrimination against people without a British passport, they found 58 per cent of landlords completely ignored a rental enquiry from an ethnic minority person who did not have proof they were a British citizen.
However, the Home Office said landlords must carry out immigration status checks on all new tenants, regardless of nationality, and that it is illegal to do so exclusively for renters they suspect are not British citizens.
A leaked Home Office document this week revealed ministers’ plans to clamp down on immigration from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) after Brexit.
A Government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on leaked draft documents.
“We will be setting out our initial proposals for a new immigration system which takes back control of the UK’s borders later in the autumn.”