This month the High Court has slammed the Government’s controversial Right to Rent scheme. The scheme requires landlords operating in England to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. Since 2016 this has involved checking visa or passport documents in the presence of the tenant and then taking a photocopy.

Long standing critics of the policy such as The Guardian have likened the scheme to enlisting landlords to do the job of a non-existent border force or immigration officials on the cheap.

In a recent ruling by Mr Justice Spencer mandatory document checks were labelled “discriminatory”, with “little or no effect” on immigration.

The stinging criticism of Government policy follows a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants who presented evidence that, in cases where tenants could not provide a UK passport, landlords were more likely to grant a tenancy to tenants with a ‘British’ name.

The thinking is that landlords are being influenced to err on the side of caution as failure to comply with Right to Rent can result in £3,000 fines and landlords who do rent to those without the right to rent in the UK could face up prison terms of up to five years in prison.

Plans to expand the scheme to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have now been shelved.The Home Office wanted to roll the scheme out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but judges said that this will now not be possible without further evaluation, as the evidence “strongly showed” that the existing policy is causing landlords to discriminate against potential tenants because of their nationality and ethnicity.

Right to Rent might not have received a fatal blow from this the ruling, but the case could be the beginning of the end for the unpopular policy. Many groups are calling for it to be scrapped, including the Residential Landlords Association (RLA)…

The Industry View

We understand the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as “a farcical situation”.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “This new ruling makes the Right to Rent a farce. To put landlords in a position where acting on a direct instruction provided by the Home Office leaves them open to breaching equality law cannot be tolerated.

“With the High Court having ruled that discrimination is baked into the Right to Rent scheme it is time for the policy to be scrapped altogether.”