The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is supporting a legal challenge of the Government’s controversial Right to Rent scheme.
Under the immigration policy, landlords are legally responsible for checking the immigration status of all prospective 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 RLA is supporting a judicial review of the policy being sought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which argues that the policy discriminates against foreign nationals. The RLA is also supporting a similar legal challenge by the Camden Community Law Centre.
The fear of criminal sanctions has made many landlords reluctant to let to non-UK nationals out of concern that they will be duped by forged documents. Research by the JCWI found that the scheme has made 51% of landlords less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals. This is backed up by similar research by the RLA, which it will be using to support the legal challenge.
Despite requests for it, the Home Office has refused to publish a database of what all acceptable forms of identification for the scheme look like, arguing that there are simply too many from countries around the world.
A recent BBC investigation found that criminal gangs are helping undocumented immigrants flout the law by selling them fake identity documents.
The same JCWI research shows that 48% of landlords were less likely to let to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme, due to the threat of criminal sanctions. This poses serious difficulties for the 17% of UK residents that do not have a passport.
Although in October the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration announced a new review of the Right to Rent scheme, it warned that this “will not examine any unintended consequences of Right to Rent, for example, discrimination against would-be tenants, increased homelessness, or displacement”. This is because, it said, it “does not have the capacity to conduct a meaningful examination of the unintended consequences of Right to Rent at this time”.
David Smith, the Policy Director of the RLA, says: “When this policy was first discussed, we warned the Government of the unintended consequences of the Right to Rent scheme. How can a landlord be expected to know what every passport in every country is supposed to look like?
“For the overwhelming majority of landlords, it makes no commercial sense to limit their access to a large proportion of the prospective tenant market. It is the fear of criminal sanctions for getting it wrong which is causing many simply to want to play it safe.”
He insists: “Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of the border agencies. It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy.”