Right to Rent = Discrimination against Foreign Nationals?

Back in May the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) wrote to the Home Secretary challenging the decision to roll out the Right to Rent scheme to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The Right to Rent scheme places an obligation on landlords to ensure that they do not rent to people who do not have the “right to rent”. They must carry out immigration checks on tenants or occupiers prior to entering into any tenancy agreement to protect themselves from the possibility of a fine. At present the scheme only applies to England however the government intends to roll out the scheme to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The JCWI has argued that prior to rolling out the Right to Rent scheme the Government should address evidence that the scheme leads to discrimination against foreign nationals, British Citizens without a passport, and British citizens from minority communities. In fact, following a mystery shopping exercise the JCWI found that a British minority tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords.

Saira Grant, Chief Executive, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has been quoted as saying:

“In the face of clear evidence of discrimination under Right to Rent, the Government must show it is not acting illegally before it presses ahead with a rollout to the rest of the UK.”

“This is a scheme that not only discriminates against BME British citizens, foreign nationals and British nationals without passports – it imposes costs on landlords, agents and tenants too.”

“The Government must carry out a thorough review – until then, any extension to other parts of the UK would be premature, dangerous, and potentially illegal.”

The Right to Rent scheme was piloted in certain regions of the UK from December 2014 and came into force across England in February 2016.

The right to rent scheme is part of a package of legislative measures adopted in recent years to create a ‘hostile environment’ for irregular migrants. The combined aim of these measures is to deny irregular migrants access to a range of services, with the expectation that this will lead them to voluntarily leave the UK.

The main aim of the right to rent scheme is to deny irregular migrants access to the private rental market and thereby encourage them to leave the UK voluntarily.

Under the 2014 Immigration Act, individuals who do not have a legal right to remain in the UK are disqualified from occupying residences under a residential tenancy agreement. In addition, landlords and their agents have a duty to carry out immigration checks on all adults who will occupy a property before entering into a residential tenancy agreement. This involves seeing original versions of prescribed documents contained in the Code of Practice. If a migrant cannot provide the required documents, landlords can confirm that the individual has a right to rent through the Landlords Checking Service.

However what this all means of course is extra work for landlords, or their agents. At a time where landlords are being taxed more heavily and their profits minimised, and when Letting Agents in this part of the country are preparing for the moment when they can no longer charge tenant fees, it is rather naïve to suggest that every landlord and agent will choose to carry out that extra work, particularly if they have a British National with valid passport there for the taking. People will always choose the easiest route – that is just human nature.



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