The controversial Right to Rent scheme, which requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of their tenants, often leads landlords to discriminate against people who seem 'foreign', a court ruled last year.
Many landlords have long argued that the policy discriminates against foreign nationals, especially those who cannot easily prove their right to remain in the UK.
Concerns about breaking these rules meant many landlords became reluctant to rent to someone without a British passport for fear of prosecution for getting things wrong.
The Home Office last year announced that it plans to reassess its Right to Rent scheme after the High Court ruled that the legislation is discriminatory and breaches human rights laws.
The Home Office had wanted to roll out the scheme, introduced in England in 2016 following an initial pilot scheme in the West Midlands, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but judges said that this would 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 Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the Residential Landlords Association, which have long maintained that the policy could lead to indirect discrimination, with landlords forced to act as what it described as ‘border police’.
But the government has decided to appeal against a damning criticism by the High Court last year that the Right to Rent breaches human rights law because it causes racial discrimination that otherwise would not happen.
That appeal against the ruling in the Judicial Review was finally published yesterday, rejecting claims that the scheme is solely responsible for discrimination in selecting potential tenants for private sector rented property.
The Secretary of State appealed on six grounds during a hearing in January 2020.
The government is fighting to avoid the Right to Rent checks being scrapped, but for now, they have been temporarily adapted due to coronavirus, in order to make it easier for landlords to carry them out.
The temporary changes to the scheme, which requires landlords to check that all tenants who occupy their properties have legal status to live in the UK, mean the Home Office will not require landlords to see original documents and will allow checks to be undertaken over video calls.
These temporary changes mean that during the coronavirus outbreak prospective renters are now able to submit scanned documents, rather than originals, to show they have a right to rent or right to work.
Checks continue to be necessary and it is an offence to knowingly employ or let property to anyone who does not have legal immigration status in the UK.