High Court agrees to review of Right To Rent policy

A campaign group has won the right to launch a high court case against the Home Office’s Right to Rent policy which obliges landlords to check the immigration of would-be tenants.

A flagship part of the ‘hostile environment’ strategy for illegal immigrants, the scheme was introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May 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) supported an application by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) heard in the High Court yesterday 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.

Commenting on the decision of the High Court to allow a judicial review of the policy, David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Landlords will welcome the High Court decision to allow a judicial review of the Right to Rent policy which has put them in the impossible position of acting as untrained Border Police trying to ascertain who does and who does not have the right to be in the country. This has created difficulties for many legitimate tenants as landlords are forced to play safe and only rent to those with a UK passport.

“The announcement is an important step towards overturning a policy which the government’s own inspectorate had described as having yet to demonstrate its worth.”

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, concluded 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.”

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