On Wednesday 6 June, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), supported by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), won the right to launch a high court case against the controversial Right to Rent checks.
Right to Rent, which was introduced as part of Government attempts to cut down on illegal immigration in February 2016, make it a landlord’s responsibility to establish that a tenant has a right to be in the UK. These checks must be carried out on all tenants even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement.
The policy has been unpopular with landlords because of its onerous nature: landlords must check tenants' immigration status by viewing original immigration documents in the presence (or via live video link) of the applicant and make copies of the documents which must then be retained for 12 months after the tenancy expires. Where applicants whose immigration documents are held by the Home Office and are therefore not available, landlords are required to use the Government’s Landlords Checking Service and report any instances in which individuals are not found to meet the requirements.
Furthermore, landlords who allow a tenancy to an adult who is disqualified as a result of their immigration status may currently be convicted of a criminal offence under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014.
The JCWI is a long-time critic of the policy on the grounds that it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Its research found that, as a result of the scheme, 42% of landlords said that they were less likely to rent to those without a UK passport and 51% were less likely to non-EU nationals.
Similarly, a survey by the RLA found that landlords were 43% less likely to rent to anyone without a UK passport and 46% less likely to rent to a non-EU national.
Apparently since the Right to Rent rules were introduced just over two years ago, 405 landlords have fallen foul of the rules and have been fined on average over £654 each.
Both the RLA and the JCWI believe that Right to Rent is creating a hostile environment for those who need, and are legally entitled to, housing in the UK. Parallels have been drawn with the recent Windrush scandal, heightening concerns of discrimination.
No hearing date has yet been given for the judicial review challenge.