In March 2019, the High Court ruled that the Right to Rent scheme was causing racial discrimination and violated human rights law. The government appealed the ruling and the appeal was heard on 22 January 2020. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
The Right to Rent scheme was introduced in England in 2016 and 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. Research also confirmed this by showing that the fear of getting things wrong led to 44% of landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport.
When the scheme was challenged in the High Court, 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 government have spent more than £78,000 in public money on legal costs to appeal against the ruling this week.
For now, landlords and their agents still need to comply with the Right to Rent scheme and carry out immigration checks. However, landlords should monitor the situation to await the outcome of the latest appeal process.