The High Court has ruled the government’s Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law.
Right to Rent puts the onus of responsibility on landlords to check the immigration status of a tenant or lodger, with the threat of prosecution if they know, or have “reasonable cause to believe” that they are letting to an illegal immigrant.
The scheme was introduced in England in 2016 during Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary as part of the ‘hostile environment’ policy.
At the ruling, Mr Justice Spencer said the scheme was “discriminatory” and had “little or no effect” on controlling immigration.
He ruled the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights as it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals, who had the right to rent as well as British ethnic minorities.
He now ruled it would be illegal to extend it to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as it currently stands.
The challenge was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which claimed the scheme was “race discrimination against those who are perfectly entitled to rent”.
The Home Office said it was “disappointed” by the ruling.
Research by the RLA found the scheme forced landlords to discriminate for “fear of getting things wrong” with 44% of private landlords saying they would be less likely to rent to those without a British passport.
During the ruling, the Judge reflected this, saying that the scheme “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”.
“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.”
Research from Oxford University suggests that the foreign-born population is almost three times as likely to be in the private rental sector compared those born in the UK.
The Home Office has been granted permission to appeal, ascertaining that an independent study found no evidence of systematic discrimination in its policy.
They said they would be giving careful consideration to the judge’s comments.