The government is facing a legal challenge over its controversial Right to Rent scheme, which effectively forces buy-to-let landlords to act as border control officer.
Since the scheme was introduced across England in February 2016, while Theresa May was Home Secretary, private landlords across the country have been required to check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent their property, by ensuring that they have documents to prove they can live in the UK before the start of the tenancy.
The immigration checks have left many foreign nationals, and indeed Britons without a passport, struggling to rent due, according to a recent survey.
A report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) issued earlier this year, revealed that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are being discriminated against in the private rental housing market as a result of the Right to Rent scheme designed to crack down on irregular immigration.
Just over half - 51% - of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals, while 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.
Somewhat worryingly, an enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords in a mystery shopping exercise, following the introduction of the Right to Rent scheme, introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s reforms to build a ‘fairer and more effective’ immigration system.
Under existing rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ face penalties of up to £3,000 per tenant, and a maximum five years imprisonment.
But the JCWI yesterday wrote to the Home Office to call for a halt to the rollout of the scheme and for a full evaluation of its effects. It insists that it will take legal action if the government fails to comply.
Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, commented: “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.”