Dozens of landlords fined after roll-out of new Right to Rent immigration checks
Dozens of landlords have been fined under a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Financial penalties totalling £37,000 were handed out in the first eight months after the Right to Rent scheme was rolled out across England, figures obtained by the Press Association reveal.
The fines were issued to 62 landlords between the start of February and end of September last year - a rate of around one every four 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.
Home Office data on civil penalties issued for letting to tenants or lodgers without the right to rent were provided following a Freedom of Information request.
Fines issued between February 1 and September 30 last year ranged from £80 to £3,000, with most relating to one or two tenants. Three cases involved three tenants.
Thirty-six penalties were issued in connection with lodgers in a private household, while 26 were handed out over occupiers in rented accommodation.
Separate figures published in January showed that across two phases of the scheme, 106 landlords had been fined, with just under £30,000 collected as of December.
Right to Rent has come under fire from campaigners who claim it is fuelling discrimination and argue there is little evidence it is having an impact in the Government's efforts to create a "hostile environment" for migrants in the country unlawfully.
Records show 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.
Other cases may be being progressed to removal, have been made subject to reporting restrictions, sought to "regularise" their stay, or left the UK voluntarily.
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, said: "Only a small number of landlords have been penalised as a result of the scheme so far, with an average fine of £260 handed out in conjunction with these cases.
"This probably suggests that landlords are 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."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to people here legally but firm with those who break the rules.
"Right to Rent deters people from staying in the UK when they have no right to do so. We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector, such as local authorities, landlords and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
"This ensures that levels of awareness are good and that checks are being routinely carried out. Where illegal migrants are found to be renting property, we are taking action."