The obligation imposed on landlords to establish that tenants they let to property to have the right to rent under the Immigration Act 2014 is said to be fuelling the black market for false identification recent research has shown.
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 with fake identification and possibly other documents deceiving agents and landlords. The research reveals that criminals gangs are using fake ID’s 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.
Using a secret camera the reporter recorded the deals, with fraudsters charging up to £500 for a fake passport. Some documents arrived within 48 hours.
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 were not expected to be experts in spotting forged documents.
Zack Adesina for the BBC said: “The counterfeit passports I saw and acquired from the ID fraudsters were remarkably convincing at first glance. Professionally bound and sealed, some even feature mock biometric imprints.
They are made with good quality materials and they also pass the touch test, feeling like the real thing. But they don’t withstand intense scrutiny. The photos on three appeared too small and the lettering somehow seemed dodgy but then, those selling them know they need not be perfect.”
As one fraudster put it: “Don’t try to use them at the airport, where they check thoroughly. You will not be able to con a proper immigration officer but they are good enough to fool landlords.”
Sasha Charles, who specialist in property law, stated: “How can landlords be expected to identify fake identity or other documents regarding a person’s right to reside in England when landlords are not immigration officials? Though there was guidance published by the government on how to examine identity documents, even if this guidance was followed recent research has provided that fraudulent ID cannot always be distinguished by visual examination carried out by the average person.
Mr Ahmad of the British Landlords Association said: “It is not the only issue that right to rent legislation is fuelling the black market, but it is actually making it difficult for tenants who do have the right to rent in England to rent property which is detrimental given the need for housing. This means legitimate tenants can be turned away from landlord or agents while the fraudsters obtain accommodation with their fake ID’s.”
Has the right to rent legislation caused discrimination?
Saira Grant from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that a report released in February, found that 51% of surveyed landlords said the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals. The survey also disclosed that 41% of landlords were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport.