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New source of advice for migrants in the private rented sector

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Migrants living or looking for a home in the private rented sector will be able to get advice on their housing rights from an expanded website.

The website – www.housing-rights.info – is run by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and BMENational, the body that represents BME housing associations.

It was set up to provide information for migrants and people who advise them about their entitlement to social housing, homelessness help and housing benefit. It has now been extended to cover the private rented sector after winning a £6,300 grant from the TDS Charitable Foundation.

The government’s Labour Force Survey shows that 80% of recent migrants (those who have been in the country less than five years) live in private rented housing. A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2012 showed that they are often forced into poorer parts of the sector, are unaware of or scared to use their rights, and find it difficult to access advice or get poor advice from conventional housing advice services. The expanded website is intended to help address the gap in the advice available.

CIH policy adviser John Perry, who helps run www.housing-rights.info, said: “We’re extremely grateful to the TDS Charitable Foundation for this generous grant. Over one fifth of tenants in the private rented sector are foreign nationals so it’s vital that they get good advice on their rights. And it’s particularly relevant right now given the Immigration Act 2014, which came into force in parts of the West Midlands in December. The Act requires private landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants, which can be very complicated even for legitimate migrants. So the new sections of the website will cover the new rules, the documents needed by people applying for tenancies and what to do if things go wrong either before the offer of tenancy or later – including advice on how respond to the risk of discrimination by landlords.

“Unfortunately migrants can find themselves at the mercy of rogue landlords, living in extremely poor conditions – we hope the extended website can help prevent this from happening and make them and people who advise them more aware of their rights.”

Steve Harriott, Trustee at the TDS Charitable Foundation said;

“Standards in private rented sector are more important than ever before, as the only form of housing which continues to grow. Whilst most tenants in the UK have good landlords, it is the most vulnerable and those with least knowledge of the law at greatest risk of falling into the hands of bad ones. We are delighted to be able to help CIH and BMENational with this funding to develop an invaluable resource for tenants.”

www.housing-rights.info, which is mainly funded by sponsorship, was originally developed in partnership with HACT with start-up funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is run by John Perry and Sam Lister of CIH and consultants Sue Lukes and Liz Davies.

It averaged almost 12,500 visitors a month in 2014 and is used as a resource by bodies including Shelter, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Migrant Rights Network as well as many small advice agencies.

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