Industry News Sally Walmsley 10/08/2023

Right to rent fines to hit £20,000

Landlords could be hit with fines of up to £20,000 for failure to ensure tenants and lodgers have the right to rent in the UK.

For landlords who take on illegal immigrants, the fines will increase from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for a first breach to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier.  Repeat breaches will be up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, up from £500 and £3,000 respectively. 

Under existing rules landlords can also face potential imprisonment for failure to check the occupier's right to rent status.

The civil penalty for employers employing someone without the right to work will be raised to up to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach from £15,000, and up to £60,000 for repeat breaches from £20,000.

What is right to rent?

Right to rent checks require landlords and agents to check the immigration status of all prospective adult occupiers at the outset of the tenancy to ensure they have the right to live in the UK. Landlords can do this themselves, by checking documents such as passports or identity cars, can use specialist technology from accredited providers or can carry out checks via the Home Office.

Why are things changing and what are the consequences for landlords and tenants?

The Government says it is making the changes to ‘stop the boats’ a key pledge of PM Rishi Sunak, with the Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick saying, ‘unscrupulous landlords’ were enabling ‘the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue’. 

However NRLA Chief Executive Ben Beadle, whose views were featured in The Telegraph and LBC Radio, said that increasing fines for landlords is unlikely to tackle the core issue of immigrants entering the country illegally and warned increased fines could make landlords more risk averse when it comes to who they rent to.

This means prospective tenants who cannot easily prove their right to rent – for example those without a passport or driving licence – will find it even harder to find somewhere to live.  The most recent Census data found that of those classed as being a usual resident in the UK, 8 million (13.5%) did not have a passport.

Ben said: “The announcement is little more than a gimmick. Quite simply, by the time illegal immigrants are looking for housing the boats have already left.

“Rather than tackle the root causes of illegal immigration into the UK, the Government is, deflecting from the real issues and doing responsible landlords a great disservice by confusing them with criminals harbouring illegal immigrants.

“The vast majority of compliant, law-abiding landlords are already carrying out these checks, yet it is inevitable that the fear of getting it wrong will make some more cautious as to who they let to.

“That, in turn will make it more difficult for some people to find homes to rent. This includes British nationals who have a legitimate right to rent but lack the documentation to prove it.”

Legislation will be laid before Parliament this autumn with it expected to come into force at the start of 2024.

In the meantime the NRLA has written to the Immigration Minister and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and their Select Committees to highlight its concerns and ask for clarification on the changes and how they will be implemented.

More information

To read the NRLA guide on right to rent, which includes details of acceptable documents and the process to be followed click here

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley Magazine and Digital Editor

Sally is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

See all articles by Sally Walmsley