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Landlords give preference to white people with British passports, court told

A number of buy-to-let landlords are discriminating against prospective tenants based on their nationality and ethnicity due to the impact that the Right to Rent scheme is having on the private rental market, a court has heard.

The government’s controversial initiative, which forces landlords to undertake immigration checks on prospective tenants, is currently being challenged in the High Court.

Under the scheme, which was introduced in 2016, landlords face 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 judicial review case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrant (JCWI), which began yesterday and concludes today, argues that the measures puts people who have a legal right to be in the UK at risk of homelessness and destitution.

Philippa Kaufman QC, the barrister representing JCWI, told the Court the scheme encourages landlords to give preference to white people with British passports in order to reduce the risk of prosecution.

She described Right to Rent as an “onerous scheme” which presents “huge risks and burdens” for landlords, adding: “If someone is a British citizen they know they are safe. 

“The evidence shows they prefer not just a British national but a British national with a passport to show, because then they can be sure there is no doubt.

“BAME British citizens are treated less favourably when they don’t have a passport than white British citizens. Where they do not have a passport you then resort to proxies – do they appear British? – ie skin colour, name, accent, and so forth.”

The hearing comes as fresh research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) shows 44% of private landlords are now less likely to rent to those without a British passport, up from 42% last year.

Chai Patel, legal policy director for JCWI, has accused the home secretary, Sajid 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.

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    Personally, the biggest issue we have come across are British Nationals without a passport, as 2 forms of ID are then needed.

    A majority of our tenants are from the EU and have passports/ID cards with MRZ codes and the right to rent checks couldn't be easier.

    Even with tenants from outside the EU, when their visa is due to expire, we ask them for the reference number from the home office to confirm they are allowed to reside in this country whilst there application is being processed.

    We do not have any landlords that discriminate against tenants based on race or nationality. As long as they pass referencing and have the required documents, there are no issues.

    That said, it is a pain in the proverbial and we shouldn't be doing the job of the Home Office.

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    So we should only discriminate when the Home Office tells us to? If we don't do it then we're breaking the law. If we do it at any other time then we're breaking the law. That's nice and clear then!

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    I have, and have had many immigrant tenants and generally find them to be very good tenants, often better than some white british tenants i've had, i'm a bit wary when it comes to indian tenants though as i have had bad experiences with them in the past , but i don't exclude them totally, the only tenants i exclude are those on benefits unless they have a cast iron guarantor.
    we should not be doing the job of the home office, does a shop keeper ask for a passport before selling goods to some one ? boils down to the same thing.

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    Maybe you didn't like the lingering smell of curry Andrew?
    Eastern Europeans often make good tenants and if you find a good one, they look after the property very well.

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    Agree 100% Andrew.
    Don't like Curry smell, very difficult to remove from carpets curtains even gets into the walls. Just like a dog smell and I am an animal lover.
    Have lots of European tenants, they look after My properties well, no rent arrears etc. Universal Credit a big no no even with a guarantor. Don't do the government's job either, if they are in the UK have confirmed previous address come up on a credit search and give id and any reference I choose to take then that's acceptable to be and has been for past 30 years and over 100 properties.

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    Most of our HMO Tenants are young professionals whose identities are easy to check; and many have strong employment credentials too. However, when more careful thorough checks are necessary, it is quite onerous. And it is not clear in my head, who would be paying for that when the Tenant fees ban kicks in. We effectively run our own lettings office for our HMOs, though not at present for independent third parties. If the extra workload is problematic to cost in as a referencing fee, would we do two rent options, one for a UK passport holder, one for someone bringing less ready security either on identity or on employment credentials? - and this of course would likely force our preference toward a UK passport holder. As a generality, it is true that one has to pay higher if causing more risk (eg mortgage and other lending works that way; dangerous/risky jobs have to pay more etc etc), so higher rent where there is more risk, seems the route to go?

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    Ian. Your logic is impeccable - so Civil Servants will probably tell you that you can't do that!


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