Author: Bill Tanner
he Home Office has rejected a key recommendation from its own chief inspector of borders and immigration made in a report that effectively brands the Right to Rent (RtR) scheme racist.
This recommendation called for a new consultative panel to test allegations that landlords were refusing to rent to would be tenants without British passports or “with a foreign name or foreign accent”.
According to the report, an existing panel has not met since November 2016 and there is no mechanism for anyone to report suffering discrimination.
In a formal response, the Home Office has dismissed both the need for the new panel or for a wider evaluation of the Right to Rent scheme.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has already seized on the report as a “damning critique of a failing policy”.
“Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of the border agencies – it is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy,” said David Smith, the RLA’s director of policy.
Support groups have been equally scathing in their response to the Home Office rejecting the recommendations.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) – which has launched a legal challenge against RtR – said the refusal to evaluate it was “disgraceful”.
JCWI research found that 42% of landlords were unlikely to rent to someone without a British passport – with a quarter less likely to rent to people who “appear foreign”.
Rachel Robinson, of Liberty, said the “damning report” not only revealed RtR as ineffective but exposed the government as turning a blind eye to the discrimination its policies are sowing.
The report looked at the Home Office’s development of RtR, its implementation and initial evaluation, the operational response by Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams and others, and what monitoring and evaluation there had been of RtR since it was rolled out across England.
The report also summarises concerns from stakeholders about the impact of RtR on issues such as discrimination by landlords against particular groups or types of prospective tenants, exploitation and homelessness.
Overall, the report found RtR had yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.
Landlords who lease properties to illegal immigrants can be fined up to £1,000 for a first offence, or jailed for up to five years.
However, the report – slipped out just before Easter, alongside three other immigration studies – revealed that not a single prosecution has taken place.
Between February 2016 and July 2017, a total of 265 fines were imposed after investigations into 468 individuals, leading to £165,520 of penalties.
The Home Office responded by rejecting the call for an RtR consultative panel, proposing instead to reconvene the existing Landlords Consultative Panel for the rest of the year.
To the Home Office, the objectives of the existing panel will address the report’s recommendation in full – including how to secure wider engagement with private citizens and landlords.
The Home Office also offered to explore different channels of communication and feedback through engagement at the local level, such as at local authority led landlords’ events.