The High Court recently ruled that the Government’s Right to Rent scheme causes racial discrimination in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The scheme, which was introduced in England in 2016, requires all private landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants to ensure that they can legally rent a property. Failure to carry out such checks can result in a fine of up to £3,000 for the landlord. Knowingly renting to an illegal immigrant is also a criminal offence that can result in an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison.
Although, in practice, the scheme requires that the status of all prospective tenants is checked regardless of nationality, the concern has always been that its effect would be discrimination against non-British nationals.
The scheme was challenged in the High Court on the basis that the Government’s policy caused landlords to discriminate against potential tenants on the basis of nationality.
The High Court’s decision
The judge held that the scheme had “little or no effect” on immigration control and that even if the scheme had been shown to be effective “this was significantly outweighed by the discriminatory effect.”
The controversial Right to Rent scheme is just one aspect of the hostile immigration environment, designed to make life as difficult as possible for illegal migrants but which can also adversely affect the lives of law abiding migrants.
Despite this ruling, landlords and their agents still need to comply with the Right to Rent scheme and carry out immigration checks for the time being. The legislation which introduced the scheme remains in force and the Government has been granted permission to appeal the decision. For now, landlords should be monitoring the situation to await the outcome of the appeal process.