The High Court has ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law.
Under the Right to Rent, landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants with 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 Residential Landlords Association intervened in a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to have a policy declared as incompatible with human rights on the grounds that it was leading to discrimination against non-UK nationals who might be in the country legitimately and British ethnic minorities.
Concerns were highlighted when research by the RLA found that the fear of getting decisions wrong led to 44 per cent of private landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport.
It also found that 53 per cent of landlords were less likely to rent to those with limited time to remain in the UK and 20 per cent said they were less likely to consider letting property to EU or EEA nationals.
The judge’s verdict concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the government scheme”.
A statement by the RLA says the Judge found that the Right to Rent “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 such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.
The judge in the case 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 judgement, 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.”
Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said:
“There is no place for racism in the UK housing market. Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it. But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life. Today’s judgement only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the Hostile Environment must be dismantled.”
The legislation will remain in place for the foreseeable future until checks have been done. There is also likely to be an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Norwood, G – Letting Agent Today. (2019). Right To Rent breaches human rights, High Court rules. Accessible: https://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2019/3/right-to-rent-breaches-human-rights-high-court-rules. Last Accessed: 1 March 2019
Smith, D – RLA. (2019). Right to Rent ruling: the implications. Accessible: https://news.rla.org.uk/right-to-rent-ruling-the-implications/. Last Accessed: 6 March 2019.
Stewart, J – City Metric. (2019). The High Court has ruled that using landlords as immigration officers breaches human rights law. Accessible: https://www.citymetric.com/politics/high-court-has-ruled-using-landlords-immigration-officers-breaches-human-rights-law-4508. Last Accessed: 6 March 2019.