Almost 66% of EU nationals, excluding those from Ireland, live in private rented housing, according to research conducted by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
Under the 2014 Immigration Act, all EU nationals automatically have the right to rent property in the UK, unless the law is changed after 29 March 2019.
With preparations for a no deal Brexit being ramped up, the RLA is warning that swift clarity is needed about what it would mean for EU nationals renting UK property.
Without such guidance, landlords will not know if they should continue tenancies coming up for renewal or agree new ones for EU nationals, the RLA added.
Renters and landlords need clarity
The RLA is calling on the government to issue guidance as a matter of urgency on EU nationals renting property both before and after the UK leaves the EU, including under a no deal Brexit.
It is also calling for a commitment that no changes will be made to their right to rent, without at least 18 months’ notice to give landlords and tenants plenty of time to prepare.
Under the government’s right to rent policy, landlords face the threat of potential criminal sanctions where they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.
The RLA is calling for action now to avoid a repeat of the recent scandal over the Windrush generation by ensuring that EU nationals who have the right to rent can easily prove it to their landlord.
RLA policy director, David Smith, said landlords and tenants need urgent clarification from the government.
He added: “Without this, and without a commitment that no changes will be made to the ability of EU citizens to rent property without at least 18 months’ notice, landlords will find themselves unable to decide if tenancies should be renewed and new ones created for EU citizens. We need clarity as swiftly as possible.”
Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “The government’s refusal to give EU citizens who apply for settled status a document proving their right to live in the UK after Brexit is incomprehensible.
“Particularly in light of the hostile environment that requires landlords to check their tenants immigration status.
“JCWI’s research demonstrates that landlords will not go through complex immigration checks, online forms, or telephone helplines to check up on someone’s status, when they could just rent to someone with a British passport instead.
“Landlords cannot be expected to act as border guards, and to ask them to do so is to play with the lives and livelihoods of immigrants and ethnic minorities. It must stop.”
However, Jeff Knight from Foundation Home Loans, said that at present there is no real concrete risk because the impact of Brexit is not clear.
He added: “However, what is clear is that this is creating uncertainty and, for some landlords, it will create a degree of nervousness if they rely on this demographic.
“Only time will tell the real impact here, but we also have to remember that EU nationals are not the only people that rent property in the UK.”