Letting agents voluntarily signing up to Ombudsman Scheme while Landlords being made responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants

With last month’s announcement by the Government that all letting agents must “belong to a recognised redress scheme.”  It was encouraging to see that The Property Ombudsman was able to announce at the beginning of the month that they had passed the milestone of 10,000 letting agents as members of the scheme.  The fact so many letting agents have already signed up to the voluntary scheme and its code of practice, which gives consumers confidence they will be treated fairly and that risk to them is reduced because there is a process for resolving disputes that may arise, demonstrates that the lettings industry is not only willing to but wants to show customers that they are responsible agents.

This step in the right direction and with the Governments previous concerns that regulation may impose a regulatory burden on letting agents, it was surprising to the private rented sector that in the Queens Speech this month it was announced that private landlords would be responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants.  More surprising was the revelation that only three years ago the Government was offered an immigrants’ checking service which would have cost taxpayers nothing, but turned the offer down.  Concerns over a landlord’s ability to check the immigrant status of tenants or face a fine have been somewhat relieved by the recent announcement by housing minister Mark Prisk that “The immigration status of tenants will only have to be checked under a ‘light touch’ regime”.  However, there is still concern as to why the government is prioritising this and not making conditions better for those in the private rented sector, especially when reputable landlords and agents are already carrying out tenant referencing.

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