One of the Government’s flagship immigration policies has been branded a farce after a court ruling that a landlord who seeks to repossess property where the Home Office tells them a tenant does not have the right to rent, is breaching equalities law.
Adjudicating on proceedings, Mr Justice Spencer argued that the right to rent scheme had “very little or no effect” on its chief aim of controlling UK Immigration and added that even if it did aid immigration control, the scheme is discriminatory and therefore, unviable.
Under the Right to Rent scheme 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 a right to rent in the UK. It was introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary as a key plank of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.
Where the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, they issue a formal notice to the landlord who uses this as the basis to repossess the property. In a judgement by the High Court it has ruled that this breaches the Equality Act on the basis that it amounts to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality.”
Whilst the Home Secretary cannot be prosecuted for this, landlords, forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law and at risk of a civil claim against them. This ruling gives tenants who may not legally be allowed to be in the country a defence against eviction and entitles them to an injunction and a further claim for damages.
A further ruling earlier this month by the High Court concluded that the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities. The Judge concluded that the Scheme caused landlords to discriminate 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.
David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, said, “This new ruling makes Right to Rent a farce. To put landlords in a position where acting on a direct instruction provided by the Home Office leaves them open to breaching equality law cannot be tolerated. With the High Court having ruled that discrimination is baked into the Right to Rent scheme it is time for the policy to be scrapped altogether.”