The High Court has ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme is unlawful as it leads to discrimination against non-UK nationals and British ethnic minorities.
Under the scheme, landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants, as part of the ‘hostile environment’ created by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.
They may be prosecuted 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.
Delivering his verdict in the High Court today, Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that the Right to Rent
“does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”, describing such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predicable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.
“The safeguards used by the government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective.
“In my judgment, in those circumstances, the government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the Scheme.”
The scheme has impacted the lives of hundreds of families in Britain who have been made homeless as a result of a family member not having the ‘right to rent’.
Just last month, the Independent reported the story of a former British soldier who was made homeless with his Russian wife and two British children because of the scheme.
Although his wife had the right to reside in the UK, by virtue of an Irish residency card, the letting agency in question said that this did not qualify her for a right to rent in accordance with Home Office guidance.
The legal challenge was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) with Liberty and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) also intervening in the case.
Both the JCWI and the RLA have now called for the government to scrap the scheme in light of the verdict.
However, the Home Office has been granted permission to appeal the decision and it remains to be seen whether it will take any action in the meantime.
In a statement, it said that it was “disappointed with the judgment” and that it was giving “careful consideration to the judge’s comments.”
The decision is a severe blow to the ‘hostile environment’ policy of the government whereby landlords, teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers have effectively been required to function as border guards for the Home Office.
The verdict could have ripple effect as it would appear that the discrimination inherent within the ‘right to rent’ scheme would also be present in these other aspects of the ‘hostile environment’.
Truly fantastic work by all involved in this challenge. Hopefully it will be the first step towards dismantling the ‘hostile environment’ brick by brick.
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.