Right to Rent branded a ‘farce’ after second High Court ruling
Landlords have branded the Right to Rent scheme a “farce” after a second court ruling which suggests that agents and landlords following Home Office protocol could be exposed to accusations that they have breached human rights.
Under the UK Government policy, 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.
Where the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, they will issue a formal notice to the landlord who then uses this as the basis to repossess the property. In a judgement issued 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 wording of the Act means that the Home Secretary cannot be prosecuted for this, landlords who are forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law as well as being at risk of a civil claim being made against them.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents landlords in England and Wales, said the ruling gives tenants who may not legally be allowed to be in the country a defence against any claim to evict them from a property and entitles them to an injunction to prevent eviction and possibly 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.
It would be illegal to roll the scheme out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation, the judge added.
The Residential Landlords Association is writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as a farcical situation.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “This new ruling makes the 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.”