Regulation and Enforcement Research

RLA backs legal bid to overturn Right to Rent

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

The RLA is backing a legal bid to overturn the Government’s flagship Right to Rent immigration policy.

Under Right to Rent landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants with the prospect of prosecution if they know, or have “reasonable cause to believe”, that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.

The RLA is supporting the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) which is calling for a Judicial Review, on the basis the policy discriminates against foreign nationals.

The association is also supporting a similar case being brought by the Camden Community Law Centre.

The fear of criminal sanctions has made many landlords reluctant about renting to non-UK nationals out of fear of being duped by forged documents.

Research by the RLA, which is being used to support both cases has found 47% of landlords are less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals from outside the EU as a result of the scheme.

The same RLA research found that 42 per cent of landlords were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme because of the threat of criminal sanctions.

This poses serious difficulties for the 17 per cent of UK residents who do not have a passport.

The RLAs figures reflected those the JCWI discovered through its own research.

Despite requests for it, the Home Office has refused to publish a database of what all acceptable forms of identification for the scheme look like, arguing that there are simply too many from countries around the world.

A recent BBC investigation found that criminal gangs are helping undocumented immigrants to flout the law by selling them fake identity documents.

Whilst in October the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration announced a new review of the Right to Rent, it warned that this “will not examine any unintended consequences of Right to Rent, for example discrimination against would-be tenants, increased homelessness, or displacement.”

This is because, it said, it “does not have the capacity to conduct a meaningful examination of the unintended consequences of Right to Rent at this time.”

RLA Policy Director, David Smith, said: “When this policy was first discussed we warned the Government of the unintended consequences of the Right to Rent scheme. How can a landlord be expected to know what every passport in every country is supposed to look like?

“For the overwhelming majority of landlords it makes no commercial sense to limit their access to a large proportion of the prospective tenant market.

“It is the fear of criminal sanctions for getting it wrong which is causing many simply to want to play it safe.

“Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of the border agencies. It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy.”

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.


  • I disagree. It does NOT discriminate against foreign nationals. Everyone including British white are included in this process and all have to produce the correct ID. Its no big deal or great effort for the landlord or the applicant especially if you have nothing to hide. The only people affected by this are illegal immigrants who I have no problem refusing a property to. This misguided ‘it isnt pc attitude’ puts us all at risk and I abhor your stand on this.

  • One approach that could be used is for the government agencies concerned to set up a system were EVERYBODY wishing to rent has to obtain a voucher from this agency, having provided the agency with suitable evidence, whatever that may be.
    The landlord then simply has to check that this document is in date.
    Government staff have the resources to do this, if not the will.

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