The controversial Right to Rent scheme requiring landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants is fuelling discrimination and should be scrapped, according to Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
Right to Rent, rolled out across England last year, requires landlords to establish whether tenants have a right to be in the country by taking copies of documents such as passports or identity cards. However, it has been suggested by some campaigners that the initiative has left British citizens without passports as well as foreigners at a disadvantage in the private rental market.
“In reality the Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who need, and are legally entitled to, housing in the UK but cannot easily prove it. This is causing needless tension and concern for tenants and landlords,” said David Smith, director of policy for the RLA, who would like see what he described as an “unwelcome policy” suspended.
The RLA is supporting an application by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) being heard in the High Court tomorrow for a Judicial Review of the policy.
Both organisations argue that the policy discriminates against foreign nationals, especially those, such as the Windrush generation, who cannot easily prove their right to remain in the UK.
Smith added: “The Windrush scandal has shown that even trained immigration officers can make serious mistakes. This highlights how inappropriate it is to demand that untrained landlords become enforcers of government immigration policy.
“Those who cannot easily prove their right to rent with documents landlords are clearly familiar with are finding it increasingly difficult to access the homes they need.”
Research by the RLA has found that, as a result of the Right to Rent policy, 42% of landlords are now less likely to rent to someone without a British passport for fear of prosecution for getting things wrong.
In a recent report on the scheme, David Bolt, independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, concluded that the Right to Rent policy 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”.
The hearing comes as the Labour Peer, Baroness Lister, will use a question in the House of Lords on tomorrow to ask about the government’s plans for the Right to Rent in light of the Chief Inspector’s report.
Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “When asked for evidence that the hostile environment was working, Amber Rudd could only point to ‘anecdotes’. Sajid Javid said there were no measures in place ‘as such’ to evaluate it. We’re talking about the policies that inflicted so much harm on the Windrush generation, and our Home Secretaries are operating in the dark. But even now, the Home Office is opposing the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s strong recommendation that right to rent be independently evaluated.
“The Right to Rent scheme imposes costly red tape on every landlord in the UK, and the government has no evidence it’s working. Meanwhile, landlords themselves tell us it encourages them to discriminate against foreign nationals. Denying individuals the right to rent property only increases the power of exploitative rogue landlords and employers.
“We have been forced to bring this legal challenge because Theresa May and Amber Rudd would not listen to the evidence. We hope Sajid Javid takes a more rational view.”