A Judicial Review of the government’s controversial Right to Rent policy, which forces landlords to undertake immigration checks on prospective tenants, will get underway today.
The government faces a challenge to its scheme, which began operating nationwide in 2016, after the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) won the right in June to launch a High Court case against the Home Office’s scheme obliging landlords to check the immigration of would-be tenants.
The JCWI gained consent for a full hearing to take place before the High Court today and tomorrow.
The JCWI’s legal challenge has received support from various bodies, including the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which has long maintained that the policy could lead to indirect discrimination, with landlords, forced to act as what it describes as ‘border police’, likely to play it safe when it comes to renting out their homes.
Fresh research from the RLA has found that, as a result of the Right to Rent policy, 44% of landlords are now less likely to rent to someone without a British passport for fear of prosecution for getting things wrong.
This figure has increased from 42% a year ago.
The research finds that the fear of getting things wrong also means that 53% of landlords are now less likely to rent to those with limited time to remain in the UK, up from 49% in 2017.
In a sign of the uncertainty caused by Brexit, 20% of landlords say that are less likely to consider letting property to EU or EEA nationals, up from 17% in 2017.
The RLA is calling for the Right to Rent policy to be scrapped altogether, arguing that it discriminates against those unable to easily prove their identity and foreign-born nationals who have documents unfamiliar to landlords.
It is calling also for urgent guidance to be issued by the government providing clear information for landlords about the right of EU citizens to rent property, especially in the case of a no deal Brexit.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “The Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who are legitimately in the UK but may have documentation that is not easy to understand for landlords. It creates needless friction between landlords and tenants. Landlords cannot be blamed for taking a cautious approach as they are not immigration officers.
“It is a policy that clearly leads to discrimination against certain groups and needs to be brought to an end. Despite promises from the Home Office little progress has been made and this is reflected in figures.
“Also the government has so far failed to provide any single document providing clear advice to landlords about the rights of EU nationals to rent property in the event of a no deal Brexit. It is leaving many with a sense of frustration as they do not know if they should renew tenancies and create new ones.”
Chai Patel, legal policy director for JCWI, has accused the home secretary, Sajid Javid, of failing to deliver on a pledge to “learn the lessons” of the Windrush scandal, which left many thousands of legal immigrants to the UK destitute, detained, and even deported.
Patel said: “He is ignoring the clear evidence, further reinforced by today’s new RLA findings, that requiring landlords to check immigration status does not work and causes exactly the kinds of problems that the Windrush generation faced.
“Not only is he ignoring our evidence, he is fighting us in court to stop the Home Office from being required to do its own evaluation into whether the scheme is harming ethnic minorities and foreign nationals with every right to rent property.”
Patel also accused Javid of “ignoring” a report earlier this year by David Bolt, independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, which concluded that the Right to Rent has “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office is “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”
“This is extraordinarily intrusive red tape that conscripts landlords as border officials on pain of imprisonment, and Sajid Javid won’t even check that it’s working as planned,” Patel added. “He has clearly learnt nothing from Theresa May and Amber Rudd’s mistakes.”