The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is today (16th May 2017) challenging the Government to freeze its rollout of the Right to Rent scheme, through which immigration checks are devolved to landlords, until it has addressed evidence that the scheme leads to discrimination against foreign nationals, British citizens without passports and British black and minority ethnic (BME) tenants. This comes following a JCWI report which found evidence that racial discrimination is likely to have occurred as a result of the Right to Rent scheme following its introduction across England in 2016.
The Government intends to roll out the scheme to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, despite evidence throwing into doubt the legality of a roll out and a lack of evidence as to its efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
JCWI found in a report released in February this year that:
- 51% of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals
- 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanction.
- An enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic (BME) tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords, in a mystery shopping exercise.
- The report, backed by the Residential Landlords Association, also found no evidence the scheme was achieving its stated aim of encouraging irregular migrants to leave the UK and threw into doubt its value for money.
In a letter sent to the Home Office today, JCWI claims that the Government must carry out and publish a full evaluation of the Right to Rent scheme to demonstrate its efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and non-discriminatory impact, before it can be legally extended to the rest of the UK. JCWI is threatening further legal action if the Government fails to comply.
JCWI is using the legal crowdfunding site CrowdJustice to meet the costs of preparing and pursuing this challenge. Members of the public who oppose the right to rent rollout can to contribute to the challenge from at www.crowdjustice.com/case/right-to-rent/
Saira Grant, Chief Executive, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants: “In the face of clear evidence of discrimination under Right to Rent, the Government must show it is not acting illegally before it presses ahead with a rollout to the rest of the UK. This is a scheme that not only discriminates against BME British citizens, foreign nationals and British nationals without passports – it imposes costs on landlords, agents and tenants too. The Government must carry out a thorough review – until then, any extension to other parts of the UK would be premature, dangerous, and potentially illegal.”
Today JCWI will inform the Home Secretary of its position which is that a decision to expand the right to rent scheme, without first thoroughly evaluating its discriminatory impact, would be:
- Incompatible with the Human Rights Act, and with Articles 8 & 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (non-discrimination); and/or
- A breach of the public sector equality duty imposed by the Equality Act 2010; and/or
- An irrational or unlawful decision on common law grounds.
JCWI is an independent national charity established in 1967. Our mission is to promote justice, fairness and equality in immigration and asylum law and policy.
About Right to Rent
The Right to Rent scheme was piloted in certain regions of the UK from December 2014 and came into force across England in February 2016.
The right to rent scheme is part of a package of legislative measures adopted in recent years to create a ‘hostile environment’ for irregular migrants. The combined aim of these measures is to deny irregular migrants access to a range of services, with the expectation that this will lead them to voluntarily leave the UK.
The main aim of the right to rent scheme is to deny irregular migrants access to the private rental market and thereby encourage them to leave the UK voluntarily.
Under the 2014 Immigration Act, individuals who do not have a legal right to remain in the UK are disqualified from occupying residences under a residential tenancy agreement. In addition, landlords and their agents have a duty to carry out immigration checks on all adults who will occupy a property before entering into a residential tenancy agreement. This involves seeing original versions of prescribed documents contained in the Code of Practice. If a migrant cannot provide the required documents, landlords can confirm that the individual has a right to rent through the Landlords Checking Service.
Certain vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers, who have no right to rent may be granted permission to rent by the Secretary of State. The Home Office does not inform those granted permission to rent that they have it unless they make direct enquiries. It also refuses to provide them with any documentary proof that would satisfy a Right to Rent check. These individuals must rely on the willingness of landlords to navigate the Home Office’s online checking service. However, landlords are only told to use the online service when they are requested to do so by a prospective tenant who states they have permission to rent, even though they may not know if permission has been granted to them.
Landlords or agents who fail to adequately conduct the checks and who enter into a tenancy agreement with a person who does not have a right to rent face a civil penalty of up to £3,000.
From 1 December 2016 landlords or their agents who knowingly allow a person who does not have the right to rent to occupy a property under a residential tenancy agreement and do not take steps to remove them from the property once they become aware of this can be subject to a prison sentence of up to five years.
The only way the Government has shown that the scheme is monitored is through a consultative panel which meets infrequently.
About the JCWI report into Right to Rent
This report is based on research undertaken since the civil penalty scheme came into force nationwide in England from February 2016.
Findings are based on surveys of landlords (108 responses), letting agents (208 responses) and organisations working with or on behalf of affected groups (17 responses). In addition, a mystery shopping exercise was conducted at the initial point of contact with landlords. The mystery shopping consisted of email enquiries sent to landlords and agents from online accounts belonging to six scenarios that differed in their ethnicity, nationality, the documents they had to evidence their right to rent, or their migration status. Response rates and types of responses were compared between scenarios based on their relevant characteristics. An additional mystery shopping exercise was conducted with a further persona whose documents were with the Home Office. In total, 1,708 mystery shopping enquiries and 867 responses from landlords were analysed. The extent to which the Government was monitoring the effectiveness and the impact of the right to rent scheme was assessed through examining responses to Freedom of Information Act (‘FOI’) requests and Parliamentary Questions.