'Right to rent' policy to be
challenged in the
High Court

The High Court agreed to allow the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) to bring a judicial review challenge last week. The JCWI claims that the Home Office’s ‘right to rent’ policy is part of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration.

They believe that the policy causes discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality and has therefore breached the Human Rights Act. The JCWI were supported by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) in this review.

This was followed by a letter to the Home Secretary signed by a cross-party selection of MPs. They wrote:

‘The Windrush scandal has drawn attention to the effects of the so-called hostile environment… It also provides a stark warning of the consequences that can be expected when ministers and officials fail to respond to the repeated warnings of experts about the impact of their policies.’

The MPs urged that the policy was amended immediately and that the Home Office took notice of the recommendations set out by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt. He has said previously that Right to Rent had ‘yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance.’

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said:

‘Landlords will welcome the High Court decision to allow a judicial review of the Right to Rent policy which has put them in the impossible position of acting as untrained Border Police trying to ascertain who does and who does not have the right to be in the country.’

When she was Home Secretary, Theresa May introduced the 2014 Immigration Act, which made it compulsory for landlords to check their potential tenants’ right to rent status. Those who knowingly rented to people who did not have leave to remain could face a fine or up to a five-year prison sentence.

The RLA has produced evidence that this has led to indirect discrimination against foreign nationals, as landlords were taking ‘the path of least resistance’ in asking tenants to provide a British passport.

In a survey in April, 42 per cent of landlords said they were less willing to rent to someone without a passport, even if they were British citizens.

The JCWI also argued 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.

They believe the scheme establishes such ‘complex hoops’ that a landlord has to rely on a British passport as the easiest way of establishing a tenant has the right to remain and says the policy could also disadvantage millions of British citizens who do not have a passport.

The judicial review does not yet have a  hearing date.

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