Hundreds of landlords have been fined in a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Penalties totalling £163,000 were handed out after the Right to Rent scheme was rolled out across England, official figures show.
Fines were issued to 236 property owners between the start of February 2016 and June this year – a rate of around one every two days.
Right to Rent requires landlords or householders to establish that tenants or lodgers have a right to be in the country by taking copies of documents such as passports or identity cards.
Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to £3,000 a tenant, while those who knowingly rent to people with no right to be in the country can face up to five years in prison.
Penalties totalling £163,000 were handed out after the Right to Rent scheme was rolled out across England, official figures show. Pictured: A file photograph showing homes for let in London
Ministers introduced the measures to create a ‘hostile environment’ for those with no right to be in the UK. Illegal immigrants are also barred them from opening bank accounts and driving licences can be refused or revoked.
Figures published by the Home Office reveal the number of landlords fined has more than tripled in just over a year.
Between April and June this year – the latest statistics available – 76 penalties worth £47,700 were issued. It compared with 14 fines with a total value of £13,800 in the first three months of 2016.
Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said: ‘We believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to people here legally but firm with those who break the rules or who enable others to do so.
‘The Right to Rent scheme deters people from staying in the UK when they have no right to be here.
‘We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, local authorities and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
‘Landlords can avoid the risk of a civil penalty by conducting simple and straightforward checks on tenants’ documents in accordance with Home Office regulations.’
But campaigners claim the clampdown fuels discrimination and argued there was little evidence it is having an impact on the crackdown.
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, said: ‘A growing but small number of landlords have been penalised as a result of the scheme so far, with an average fine of around £600 handed out in conjunction with these cases
Ministers introduced the measures to create a ‘hostile environment’ for those with no right to be in the UK
‘This suggests that landlords are more likely to be accidentally falling foul of the law, rather than deliberately or maliciously breaking the rules.
‘It’s important to remember that landlords are neither immigration experts nor border agents, so with time, education and the right support we’d hope that these kinds of cases begin to diminish.
‘However, ultimately this scheme should be judged on whether it tackles or prevents those who knowingly ignore the law and let to people who are in the UK illegally, but so far there’s little evidence to suggest it is having the desired effect.’
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants claimed the Government ‘has provided no evidence that this policy actually encourages undocumented migrants to leave the UK’.
Chai Patel, the charity’s legal and policy director, said: ‘It is likely that instead the policy is driving vulnerable migrants into the hands of rogue landlords.’
Separate figures published earlier this year showed that of 654 individuals who came to authorities’ attention between the launch of a pilot programme in December 2014 and September last year, 31 were removed from the UK.