Bid launched to overturn PM’s flagship Right to Rent immigration policy

A bid will be made this week for a legal review of a centre piece of the UK government’s immigration policy.

The Right to Rent scheme is a flagship part of the ‘hostile environment’ strategy for illegal immigrants introduced by the Prime Minister whilst she was at the Home Office.

Under the 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 the right to rent in the UK.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is supporting an application by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) being heard in the High Court on Wednesday for a Judicial Review of the policy. Both organisations argue 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.

Research by the RLA has found that, as a result of the right to rent policy, 42% of landlords are now less likely to rent to someone without a British passport for fear of prosecution for getting things wrong. This poses serious difficulties for the 17% of UK residents who do not have a passport, a group that is more likely to be in rented accommodation.

Nearly half, 49% of landlords are less likely to rent to someone with limited leave to remain and 44% of landlords would only rent to those with documents familiar to them. In practice, this is likely to again mean a British passport.

In a recent report on the scheme, David Bolt, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, concludes the policy has: “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office is: “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”

The hearing comes as the Labour Peer, Baroness Lister, will use a question in the House of Lords on Wednesday to ask about the government’s plans for the right to rent in light of the Chief Inspector’s damning report.

David Smith, director of policy for the RLA, said: “The Windrush scandal has shown that even trained immigration officers can make serious mistakes. This highlights how inappropriate it is to demand that untrained landlords become enforcers of government immigration policy.

“Those who cannot easily prove their right to rent with documents landlords are clearly familiar with are finding it increasingly difficult to access the homes they need.

“In reality the Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who need, and are legally entitled to, housing in the UK but cannot easily prove it. This is causing needless tension and concern for tenants and landlords.

“It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy.”

Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “When asked for evidence that the hostile environment was working, Amber Rudd could only point to ‘anecdotes’. Sajid Javid said there were no measures in place ‘as such’ to evaluate it. We’re talking about the policies that inflicted so much harm on the Windrush generation, and our Home Secretaries are operating in the dark. But even now, the Home Office is opposing the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s strong recommendation that right to rent be independently evaluated.

“The Right to Rent scheme imposes costly red tape on every landlord in the UK, and the government has no evidence it’s working. Meanwhile, landlords themselves tell us it encourages them to discriminate against foreign nationals. Denying individuals the right to rent property only increases the power of exploitative rogue landlords and employers. We have been forced to bring this legal challenge because Theresa May and Amber Rudd would not listen to the evidence. We hope Sajid Javid takes a more rational view.”

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