Right to rent – there are no winners from this flawed policy
Policy and public affairs manager Matthew Kennedy talks in more detail about CIH Cymru setting a number of recommendations to the Welsh Government as part of the 'Right to rent' policy.
Charging fees to tenants trying to access a tenancy in the private rented sector has been a hotly debated topic for quite some time, both in Wales and across the UK. As part of its commitment to reducing barriers to accessing housing, the Welsh Government is considering legislation that would effectively ban letting agents and private landlords from charging tenants anything but the rent, a holding deposit (of one week’s rent maximum) and a security deposit (which is undefined as an amount in the legislation, but there’s a power for Ministers to define this if they feel it becomes an issue itself).
We made it clear that the vast majority of PRS landlords are doing good work and that current schemes like Rent Smart Wales had clearly helped the way the sector plays a role in reducing things like homelessness. But we felt that considering the pressure and demand for a homes ban on these fees seemed sensible, particularly in light of the vast variation, poor communication and misunderstanding caused by the current environment.
Having provided evidence saying much of the above to the Equality, Local Government and Community Committee we reflected on one thing.
We were concerned they didn’t seem more concerned about one aspect of the legislation in particular. Namely the bit that could involve someone loosing their holding deposit for a property if they fail an immigration check. Widely know in the sector as the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, currently operating in England only, we felt the risks, if this were to be expanded and applied elsewhere.
We know from the experience in England that:
- It has led to a rise in discriminatory letting practices. 51% of landlords say they are now less likely to rent to a non-EU national, while 42% are less likely to rent to anyone without a British passport
- It (the scheme) is not widely understood by landlords. 27% of landlords are either unaware of the scheme or don’t feel like they understand their obligations
- Levels of enforcement are low. Only 654 individuals have come to the Home Office’s attention as a result of the scheme, and only 31 of these have since been removed from the country.
We’ve joined forces with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Wales, Tai Pawb, Community Housing Cymru, Shelter Cymru and Dr Simon Hoffman, Associate Professor in the Department of Law and Criminology at Swansea University – to put forward some additional evidence through a joint letter highlighting our concerns.
You can see the letter in full here. But here’s a taster of what we’re saying the Welsh Government should do:
- Ensure landlords cannot retain holding deposits as a result of ‘right to rent’ checks
- Re-consider the inclusion of the ‘right to rent’ check within the legislation. We feel, considering the evidence, that the policy is discriminatory and therefore it should not be included
- Call on the UK Government to urgently undertake additional evidence gathering and evaluation exercises to meet the concerns posed by the independent research.