Landlords are preparing to turn away tenants just because they have a foreign accent, as a consequence of new rules making it an offence to let rooms to illegal migrants.
The new rules are already leading landlords to discriminate between applicants on the basis of their background, according to campaigners scrutinising the pilot scheme in the Midlands, where the policy is being tested before being rolled out nationally.
The rules are also pushing up renting costs for all tenants because landlords are charging extra administration fees to cover background checks. Last year the Government announced plans to introduce regulations forcing landlords to prove that their tenants had the “right to rent” in the UK. Landlords who fail to conduct checks could be fined £3,000 for housing illegal migrants.
Campaigners following the pilot say it is encouraging discrimination against some legitimate tenants, with those who cannot easily identify themselves using a British or EU passport finding it harder to secure somewhere to live.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is surveying landlords and tenants in the pilot area, where the rules have been in force since December 2014.
It found that tenants are now being charged an extra £100 in administration fees, and landlords admitted they are less likely to offer a viewing to anyone who needed time to produce their paperwork.
“This impacts not only on many migrants but on all those without passports or full birth certificates,” said Saira Grant, legal and policy director at the JCWI. Poor Britons who cannot afford £72.50 for a passport are among those losing out.
An American tenant reported that her British husband could secure viewings for the same properties she had been told were no longer available.
Ben Reeve-Lewis, a council tenancy adviser based in London, said some local landlords were already preparing to discriminate against foreigners when the scheme was rolled out nationally.
“Landlords tell me that they won’t run the risk of letting to anyone that’s got a foreign accent,” he said.
Housing charity Shelter said that it was monitoring the pilot for evidence of racial discrimination.
“If you’re a landlord in a high-demand area and you have got two tenants competing for the property you’re just going to pick someone who’s got a British name. People who do have a right to rent in the UK will be shut out,” said Martha Mackenzie, a public affairs officer for Shelter.Reuse content