With the government already on the ropes over Brexit, there’s a call today for one of its flagship immigration policies to be scrapped.
Right To Rent has been branded “a farce” by the Residential Landlords Association which wants the government to simply abandon it.
This follows a court ruling that a landlord who seeks to repossess property where the Home Office tells them a tenant does not have the right to rent, is breaching equalities law.
Under the Right to Rent scheme 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 a right to rent in the UK.
It was introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary as a key plank of the government’s controversial ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.
Where the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, it will issue a formal notice to the landlord who then uses this as the basis to repossess the property.
But a judgement issued by the High Court it has ruled that this breaches the Equality Act on the basis that it amounts to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality.”
The RLA says that while the wording of the Act means that the Home Secretary cannot be prosecuted for this, landlords who are forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law as well as being at risk of a civil claim being made against them.
It claims that this ruling gives tenants who may not legally be allowed to be in the country a defence against any claim to evict them from a property and entitles them to an injunction to prevent eviction and possibly a further claim for damages.
A further ruling earlier this month by the High Court concluded that the whole Right To Rent 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.
The judge in that case concluded that the scheme caused landlords to discriminate where otherwise they would not, describing such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.
The RLA is now writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as a farcical situation and David Smith, the association’s policy director, says: “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.”
The court case referred to by the RLA is R (Goloshvili) v Secretary of State  EWHC 614 (Admin) which can be seen here.