The controversial Right to Rent scheme, which requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of their tenants, has been branded a farce following a court ruling that a landlord who seeks to repossess property where the Home Office tells them a tenant does not have the right to rent, is breaching equalities law.
Where the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, they will issue a formal notice to the landlord who then uses this as the basis to repossess the property.
But in a judgement issued by the High Court it has ruled that this breaches the Equality Act on the basis that it amounts to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality”.
Landlords who are forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law as well as being at risk of a civil claim being made against them.
This ruling gives tenants who may not legally be allowed to be in the country a defence against any claim to evict them from a property and entitles them to an injunction to prevent eviction and possibly a further claim for damages.
A further ruling by the High Court earlier this month concluded that the legislation is discriminatory and breaches human rights laws.
The Home Office wants to roll the scheme out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but judges said that this will now not be possible without further evaluation, as the evidence “strongly showed” that the existing policy is causing landlords to discriminate against potential tenants because of their nationality and ethnicity.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as “a farcical situation”.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “This new ruling makes the Right to Rent a farce. To put landlords in a position where acting on a direct instruction provided by the Home Office leaves them open to breaching equality law cannot be tolerated.
“With the High Court having ruled that discrimination is baked into the Right to Rent scheme it is time for the policy to be scrapped altogether.”