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Government faces legal challenge over ‘discriminatory’ Right to Rent national rollout

Dr Tom Simcock
Written by Dr Tom Simcock

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is challenging the Government to freeze its rollout of the Right to Rent scheme, through which immigration checks are devolved to landlords, until it has addressed evidence that the scheme leads to discrimination against foreign nationals, Britons without passports and British black and minority ethnic (BME) tenants.

This comes following a JCWI report which found evidence that racial discrimination is likely to have occurred as a result of the Right to Rent scheme following its introduction across England in 2016.

The Government intends to roll out the scheme to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, despite evidence throwing into doubt the legality of a roll out and a lack of evidence as to its efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

JCWI found in a report released in February this year that:

  • 51% of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals
  • 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanction.
  • An enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic (BME) tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords, in a mystery shopping exercise.

The report, backed by the Residential Landlords Association, also found no evidence the scheme was achieving its stated aim of encouraging irregular migrants to leave the UK and threw into doubt its value for money.

In our own research, the RLA has found that 43% of landlords were less likely to rent to those who do not have a British passport because of the fear of criminal sanctions for getting it wrong under the Right to Rent legislation. In addition, 63% of landlords are worried that they will make a mistake or be caught out by forged documents and be unfairly fined. Just 13% reported having found the Home Office’s Advice Line helpful to them.

In a letter sent to the Home Office, JCWI claims that the Government must carry out and publish a full evaluation of the Right to Rent scheme to demonstrate its efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and non-discriminatory impact, before it can be legally extended to the rest of the UK. JCWI is threatening further legal action if the Government fails to comply.

JCWI is using the legal crowdfunding site CrowdJustice to meet the costs of preparing and pursuing this challenge. Members of the public who oppose the right to rent rollout will be able to contribute to the challenge from Tuesday 16 May at this link: www.crowdjustice.com/case/right-to-rent/

Commenting, 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 British citizens, foreign nationals and British nationals without passports – it imposes costs on landlords, agents and tenants too.

“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.”

Commenting, David Smith, Policy Director of the RLA, said:

“The RLA supports JCWI in the call for a review of this policy. Our own research findings show that those who cannot easily prove their right to live in the UK, whether they are British or not, are finding it harder to access homes to rent. This is particularly concerning for those UK nationals without a passport, many of them the most vulnerable in society.

Landlords are not trained immigration officers and are quite reasonably becoming highly cautious to avoid tough criminal sanctions and need reassurance that they will not be punished when they get fooled by false documents.”

The JCWI will inform the Home Secretary of its position which is that a decision to expand the right to rent scheme, without first thoroughly evaluating its discriminatory impact, would be:

  • Incompatible with the Human Rights Act, and with Articles 8 & 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (non-discrimination); and/or
  • A breach of the public sector equality duty imposed by the Equality Act 2010; and/or
  • An irrational or unlawful decision on common law grounds.

JCWI has requested a response from the Home Secretary within 14 days.

About the author

Dr Tom Simcock

Dr Tom Simcock

Tom is the Senior Researcher for the RLA and leads the RLA’s research lab; the Private renting Evidence, Analysis and Research Lab (PEARL). His expertise lies in researching change in society, public policy and quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Tom’s research on housing has received national media coverage, featuring on the front page of The Times, has influenced government policy making, and has been cited in debates in the House of Commons, House of Lords and by the London Mayor.

1 Comment

  • I disagree with this stance against the ‘right to rent’ by the RLA. Landlords are another means to ensure that illegal immigrants should not be housed in our properties. Why is that a problem?

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