The two candidates for Conservative leader are being urged to make a public commitment to abolishing the controversial Right to Rent scheme.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the two candidates, are facing calls from a coalition of organisations made up of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and the3million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, to scrap Right to Rent, which forces landlords to undertake immigration checks on prospective tenants.
The Home Office recently announced that it plans to reassess its Right to Rent scheme after the High Court ruled in March that the legislation is discriminatory and breaches human rights laws.
The Right to Rent scheme, introduced in England in 2016 following an initial pilot scheme in the West Midlands, requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
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 challenge was brought by the JCWI, which has long maintained that the policy could lead to indirect discrimination, with landlords forced to act as what it describes as ‘border police’.
In a statement to the House of Commons, the minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes MP, said her department disagreed with the High Court judgement handed down on 1 March, which found that rolling the legislation out to devolved territories without further evaluation would breach the Equality Act.
Nokes said the ruling had no immediate effect on the policy and that landlords in England must still abide by the existing rules, which means they must continue to conduct Right to Rent checks.
However, she said the Home Office was “looking at options for a further evaluation of the operation of the scheme”.
In the meantime, the Home Office has been given consent to appeal ‘all aspects of the judgement’, as stated in Nokes’ statement.
Chai Patel, legal policy director of the JCWI, said: “The Home Office is now arguing in its appeal that it is justified in causing racial discrimination against British ethnic minority families struggling to find a home. It is arguing that black and brown British people’s dignity, humanity, and rights can be tossed aside to pursue Theresa May’s hostile environment.
“That cannot be acceptable in modern Britain. The new Prime Minister must commit to ending landlord immigration checks and the discrimination they cause”.
Recent research by the RLA found that, as a result of the scheme, 44% of landlords are now less likely to rent to someone without a British passport for fear of prosecution for getting things wrong.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “The Right to Rent has been a failure. No one has been prosecuted under the scheme but it has created a great deal of anxiety for landlords who do not want to go to prison for getting it wrong.
“Landlords should not be used to cover for the failings in the UK Border Agencies.”
In a sign of the uncertainty caused by Brexit, one in five landlords say that are less likely to consider letting property to EU or EEA nationals, up from 17% in 2017.
Nicolas Hatton, CEO of the3million, said: “Two-thirds of EU citizens in the UK live in private rented housing and will be affected if this failed scheme continues.
“We are already seeing that landlords are less likely to rent to anyone without a British passport, and uncertainty about Brexit added to the hostile environment will only increase the discrimination EU citizens are facing. We urge the UK government to scrap this scheme and end the discrimination.”