The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ (JCWI) legal challenge against the Right to Rent scheme will be heard in the High Court this Wednesday.
Under the scheme, every new tenant has to prove to private landlords and their agents that they have the right to live in the UK. Landlords face fines, or even prison, if they rent their property to someone with no right to be in the country.
Chai Patel, JCWI’s legal policy director, told Sky News that their legal challenge will argue that the Right to Rent scheme breaches discrimination laws.
Patel explained: “The problem with this scheme isn’t that individual landlords are necessarily racist, it’s that the government has put in a place a scheme that incentivises systemic discrimination against certain groups. That contravenes the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits that kind of discrimination and prohibits the government from putting in place schemes that encourage it.
“Over a number of years we’ve warned the Home Office about this. We’ve also seen the chief inspector of borders and immigration recently put out a report warning the Home Office there was no good evidence this scheme was working, and recommending a full evaluation of the scheme, which the Home Office has rejected”.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC of Matrix Chambers, who is representing JCWI, told The Guardian. “Landlords are incentivised by the very nature of the scheme to go down the path of least resistance. If they have someone who comes to them with a British passport, they know they are at no risk of criminal liability.
“JCWI argues that the government is not in any position to justify this policy because it has not gathered any evidence that its ‘hostile environment’ is having any effect – that is, the desired effect of prompting illegal migrants to leave, rather than going underground to be exploited by rogue landlords.
“It can’t show that it is achieving that end, and it can’t show it has given any consideration of the unintended impact it is having.”
The Press Association reported last week that as of the end of this March, 405 financial penalties with a total value of £265,000 have been handed out to landlords since the Right to Rent scheme was introduced across England just over two years ago.
The most recent figures show 39 penalties with a total value of £23,500 were issued from January to March 2018.
According to the Press Association, an inspection report published in March said there has yet to be any criminal prosecutions of landlords under the Right to Rent scheme.
Sky News reported that nearly half of landlords who responded to recent surveys by JCWI and the Residential Landlords Association said they were now less likely to rent to people who did not have a UK passport, regardless of whether they were in the UK legally, or were UK citizens.