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It will be illegal to roll out the Right to Rent scheme in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation, according to a recent High Court ruling.

These rules designed initially to prevent illegal immigrants from renting properties have been described as “discriminatory” and a breach of human rights laws, the High Court has ruled.

The Right to Rent scheme was introduced in England in 2016 and currently requires landlords to check the immigration status of their potential tenants. This has been much criticised by the media, UK public and landlords since it was introduced, because it requires landlords effectively to become HM Border Force officials.

National Landlord Investment Show – MPU

The Right to Rent process involves the checking of documents that prove a tenant has the right to stay in the UK for the term of their tenancy as well as further checks at a later stage if required.

The Judge considered discrimination against non-UK nationals and British ethnic minorities was forced on landlords, because of Right to Rent and that it breached the European Convention on Human Rights. At present, Right to Rent is still in place in England until further notice.

Immigrant welfare

The challenge was brought forward by the Residential Landlord Association (RLA) and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “We call on the Government to accept the court’s decision, scrap Right to Rent, and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.”

Recent research by the RLA found that the fear of getting things wrong led to 44 per cent of private landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport. It also found 53 per cent of landlords were less likely to rent to those with limited time to remain in the UK, whilst 20 per cent said that they were less likely to consider letting a property to EU or EEA nationals.

Verdict

Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled the Right to Rent scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent in the UK and British ethnic minorities.

Delivering his verdict in the High Court, Mr Justice Spencer, concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the Scheme.” He went on to conclude that “the government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity.”

The Judge added that Right to Rent “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”, describing such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.

He added: “The safeguards used by the government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective. In my judgement, in those circumstances, the government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the Scheme.”

What next?

The RLA and the JCWI are calling for the scheme to be scrapped entirely. David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Today’s ruling is a damning critique of a flagship Government policy. We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found.”

Smith added: “We call on the government to accept the decision, scrap the Right to Rent, and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration, without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.”

Chai Patel, legal policy director for the JCWI added: “There is no place for racism in the UK housing market. Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it.

“But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools. Today’s judgement only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the hostile environment must be dismantled.”

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Jim Kersey
Jim focuses on the socio-economic impact of housing. His reporting for Property Notify often touches on topics such as changes in sentiment among investors in various housing sectors, as well as the impact of various developments on the average person.

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