Landlords and letting agents are unknowingly accepting forged passports from prospective tenants, as the Right to Rent scheme is fuelling a black market in fake IDs, a new report claims.
The Right to Rent scheme, which was rolled out across England last year, requires landlords and their letting agents to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, to determine whether they have the right to live in the UK.
However, there is growing concern that the scheme has fuelled discrimination against British citizens that do not have a passport, as well as foreign tenants, leaving them at a disadvantage in the private rental sector.
A new investigation by the BBC has found that many landlords and letting agents are unable to identify forged passports, leaving them vulnerable to fraudsters with fake IDs.
The research found that criminal gangs are using forged passports that are impossible to identify with the naked eye.
An undercover reporter for BBC Inside Out London was able to purchase fake passports, as well as National Insurance cards and residence permits, from illegal dealers across London.
Using a secret camera, the reporter recorded the deals, with fraudsters charging up to £500 for a forged passport. Some documents arrived within 48 hours.
The forged IDs were then presented to letting agents, who were secretly filmed accepting them without question as proof of UK residency status.
Akhbar* told Inside Out: “In an average week, they were selling between six to ten fake residence permits or passports. In the last few months or so, I would say they got even busier.”
Home Office figures show that 170 fines have been issued to landlords under the Right to Rent scheme since October 2016. However, a Home Affairs spokesperson told the BBC that landlords and letting agents are not expected to be experts in spotting forged documents.
But David Smith, of Anthony Gold Solicitors, who specialises in landlord and tenant law, has expressed concerns.
“They [landlords] do not have the knowledge or skills to do the job properly. I’ve never met a landlord who can tell a valid Liechtenstein passport from a forgery,” he told the BBC.
Although you are not required to identify forged passports under the Right to Rent scheme, we do remind all landlords to stick to the law to avoid harsh penalties.
Date; 3rd December 2018
Author; British Landlords Association – The BLA