The Right to Rent Scheme, which was rolled out across England last year, places the onus on landlords, or lettings agents acting on their behalf, to verify whether tenants have the right to reside in the UK by ensuring that they see original copies of identification documentation and approving photocopies of such documentation accordingly. However, there is a growing concern that the rule has fuelled discrimination against British Citizens who have no passports, as well as foreigners, leaving them at a disadvantage in the private rental market.
A new BBC investigation has found that many letting agents and landlords are unable to identify a fake passport when presented with one, leaving them vulnerable to fraudsters. The research reveals that criminal gangs are using fake IDs that are impossible to identify with the naked eye. An undercover reporter for BBC Inside Out London was able to purchase counterfeit passports, as well as National Insurance cards and residence permits, from illegal dealers across London. With the use of a secret camera the reporter recorded the deals, with fraudsters charging up to £500 for a fake passport. The fake IDs were then presented to letting agents, who accepted them without question as proof of UK residency status.
Akhbar (not his real name) told Inside Out: “In an average week they were selling between six to 10 fake residence permits or passports. In the last few months or so I would say they got even busier.” Home Office figures show 170 fines have been issued to landlords under Right to Rent rules since October 2016. But a Home Affairs spokesperson told the BBC that landlords and letting agents were not expected to be experts in spotting forged documents. David Smith of Anthony Gold Solicitors, who specialises in landlord and tenant law, expressed his concern. “They 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.