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Right To Rent breaches human rights, High Court rules

The High Court has ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law.

Under the Right to Rent landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants with the prospect of prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK. 

It was introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary as a key plank of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.


The Residential Landlords Association joined with Liberty to intervene in a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to have the policy declared as incompatible with human rights on the grounds that it was leading to discrimination against non-UK nationals who might be in the country legitimately and British ethnic minorities.

Delivering his verdict in the High Court today, Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities.

In what the RLA describes as "a damning verdict" Mr Justice Spencer concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the Scheme.” 

He went on to conclude that “the Government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity.”

A statement by the RLA says the Judge continued by finding that the Right to Rent “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”, describing such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predicable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.

He concluded: “The safeguards used by the Government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective.  In my judgment, in those circumstances, the Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the Scheme.”

The ruling comes following a report published last year by David Bolt, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which concluded that the Right to Rent has “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office was “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”

The RLA and the JCWI have this morning written to the Home Secretary seeking an urgent meeting.

John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association, says: “Today’s ruling is a damning critique of a flagship Government policy. We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found.

“We call on the Government to accept the decision, scrap the Right to Rent, and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration, without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.”

And Chai Patel, legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants adds: “There is no place for racism in the UK housing market. Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it. But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools.  Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the Hostile Environment must be dismantled.”



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    Madness, absolute madness.

    I personally discovered two families last year who were not legal in the country, one of the families offered me a large sum of money to help them move, the other was in the local paper for running a brothel.

    We must keep the Right to Rent scheme open, if you were to ask any agent in any town I would say they would be more than happy to keep it going to protect our landlords.

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    We do not and can not discriminate against foreign nationals (They make up most of our business).

    Every foreign national we have rented to since Right to rent began has been more than happy to supply their ID card/Passport/Immigration document to comply with the legislation.

    The most trouble we have is from tenant born in Britain that do not have a passport or Driving licence!!

    Even when a tenants residency permit expires, we get their reference number for the renewal application and get the certificate from the landlord checking service.

    It is so simple and easy and part and parcel of what we do now.

    The only people suffering from this scheme are here illegally anyway (That we have found).

  • S l
    • S l
    • 01 March 2019 14:29 PM

    it is hard enough for most foreigners having to suffer discrimination and racism from the locals or shops or even the local council without adding landlords acting against them especially when they are legally here. read the tradesman banter. they even have the swear words and threaten immigration for those non white yet nothing is done to stop these behaviour. I had hope we are more civilise than that.

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    • J T
    • 04 March 2019 09:36 AM

    "The only people suffering from this scheme are here illegally anyway."

    This is far from true in our experience. Not everyone is lucky enough to run an agency where they let most of their properties to families, young professionals or students.

    We let a lot of properties to older people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Many of them don't have any of the tier one documents and struggle to find the other documents too. Imagine trying to explain this to someone in their 80s or 90s who lives a long distance away, has no support network and is partially deaf and has quite poor mobility. It is almost impossible and it happens on an almost daily basis for us.

    Imagine how difficult it is for them to obtain a letter of attestation or something up to date from the local authority that meets the strict documentary requirements. Or you discover their husband, who looked after all the paperwork and finances died 5 years ago and they lost their marriage certificate to prove the name on their 40 year old expired passport.

    I have seen countless older people become extremely stressed and upset by the whole process and it has led to significant delays in moving in, or missing out altogether.


    I should say, in our experience, the only people suffering are here illegally.

    The majority of tenants we let to are families/younger people that have the required documents, we haven't let to anyone over the age of 60-70 in a long while.


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