As you are no doubt aware, under the ‘Right to Rent’ rules, landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants and face fierce penalties if they rent to someone who does not have the ‘right to rent’ in the UK. Which can include a prison sentence.
Many have complained that this is in effect institutional racism as many landlords, in order to avoid any possibility of a penalty, will only rent to people with a British passport.
A case has been brought challenging the policy and seeking to have it declared as incompatible with human rights. It was brought by Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and was supported by Liberty and the Residential Landlords Association.
The hearing took place in December and the decision has just been handed down.
A landmark ruling
Delivering his verdict in the High Court on 1 March 2019, Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that the scheme did indeed breach the European Convention on Human Rights. This is on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities – stating that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the Scheme.”
He continued by finding that the Right to Rent scheme “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”, describing this discrimination by landlords as being “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong. He concluded:
The safeguards used by the Government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective. In my judgment, in those circumstances, the Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the Scheme.
John Stewart, Policy Manager for the Residential Landlords Association, said:
Today’s ruling is a damning critique of a flagship Government policy. We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found.
We call on the Government to accept the decision, scrap the Right to Rent, and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration, without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.
But don’t stop right to rent checking yet!
The RLA and the JCWI are seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary and it is hoped that this discriminatory scheme will in due course be revoked.
However, until this happens, it is still in force and landlords should continue to carry out right to rent checks (however distasteful they may find them) until the law is changed.
The High Court has ruled that the Right to Rent policy breaches Human Rights laws. However unless and until the policy is revoked landlords must still carry out the checks #landlordlaw