A survey carried out by Residential Landlord Association has revealed that 43% of landlords would avoid renting a property to anyone who cannot produce a British passport for fear of criminal sanctions. This could impact the 17% of the British population who don’t have a passport, and migrants coming to live and work in the UK legally.

The survey also revealed that two-thirds of private landlords wouldn’t rent to someone from outside the UK if they only had permission to stay for a limited time, and 56% reported they were less likely to rent to someone from outside the UK, regardless of their status.

Landlords fear that they will face criminal charges and fines of up to £3000 if they are duped by forged documents following the introduction of the right to rent scheme. The scheme, which launched across England in February, was designed to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants and make it difficult for them to live their lives. Landlords who fail to carry out checks to ensure they are only renting to people with the right to be in the UK could face fines. Starting next month, any landlord who knowingly rents to someone who doesn’t have permission to the in the UK will also face a prison sentence.

A common concern among the landlords surveyed was that they could be wrongfully convicted if they make an honest mistake. The right to rent scheme has been criticised for placing the burden on carrying out immigration checks on landlords rather than the Home Office. Two-thirds of those surveyed reported that they were concerned that they might try to carry out checks but be duped by forged documents. The solution? Restrict their potential tenant pool to British citizens holding British passports.

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said: “We are working to deliver an immigration system which is fair to those here legally and firm with those who try to break the rules. Following a pilot of the Right to Rent scheme, we have fully involved landlords and tenants ahead of its national roll out.

“We have made crystal clear that landlords will only be prosecuted if they knowingly rent to illegal migrants and that we will not criminalise those who have simply made a mistake or been misled by forged documents.”

According to the Home Office, the right to rent scheme also accepts other types of documents as proof of British citizenship, so those with the right to live in the UK, and citizens needn’t be concerned about failing to meet the right to rent requirements.