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Legal challenge against Right to Rent

Tuesday 16 May 2017

The Government faces a legal challenge over its policy of forcing landlords to conduct immigration checks on their tenants, amid fears it encourages discrimination and imposes unfair costs.

The “Right to Rent” scheme, introduced while Theresa May was Home Secretary, was piloted in parts of the UK from December 2014 and came into force across England in February 2016.

The scheme requires landlords to check whether someone has the right to be in the UK and is part of a bid to deny undocumented migrants housing and thus encourage them to leave the country. 

Today the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) wrote to the Home Office calling for a halt to the rollout of the scheme and a full analysis of its effects.

Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, said: “In the face of clear evidence of discrimination under Right to Rent, the Government must show it is not acting illegally before it presses ahead with a rollout to the rest of the UK.

“This is a scheme that not only discriminates against BME Britons, foreign nationals and British nationals without passports – it imposes costs on landlords, agents and tenants too. 

“In the absence of any clear plan to monitor its effects the Government must carry out a thorough review – until then, any extension to other parts of the UK would be premature, dangerous, and potentially illegal.”

JCWI says it will take the matter to court if the Government fails to comply. 

One mystery shopping exercise conducted by the JCWI found that a British BME (black and minority ethnic) person enquiring about a house without a passport was 26 per cent more likely to be refused by landlords than a British BME person with a passport. 

Meanwhile a white British person without a passport was only 11 per cent more likely to be refused than a white British person with a passport.

Only 31 illegal immigrants have been deported and 75 landlords fined under the right to rent scheme, since it was introduced.

Breaching the rules became a criminal offence on December 1 last year, and those who fail to check properly, or remove illegal migrants from their property, now face jail terms of up to five years as well as unlimited fines.

And landlords are still liable for fines of up to £3,000 per tenant where right to rent checks have not been properly conducted.

A survey of 810 landlords by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) revealed that 63 per cent were afraid of making a mistake when checking documents, while 43 per cent admitted they were less likely to rent to those without a British passport for fear of blundering.

In total 7,806 calls were made to the Home Office’s helpline for landlords between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016.

And 42 per cent of surveyed landlords also said they would be less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme, while 51 per cent said the scheme would make them less likely to consider renting to foreign nationals.

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