Appeal judges last week heard the Government’s appeal against the ruling that its controversial ‘Right to Rent’ scheme breaches human rights. In March last year, following a judicial review brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and supported by Liberty and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the High Court declared the scheme incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ministers were given permission to appeal the High Court’s decision, and that appeal has now been heard by three judges of the Court of Appeal. Their judgment will be given at a later date.
The ‘Right to Rent’ scheme made it unlawful to rent any residential premises to people who required but did not have a right to reside in the UK and was part of a series of immigration reforms introduced by then Home Secretary, Theresa May as part of her ‘hostile environment’ proposals. Landlords found to have knowingly done so could be punished by substantial fines and up to five years’ imprisonment.
Research conducted by the JCWI in 2017 found that 42% of landlords surveyed said they were less likely to rent to anyone without a British passport. The Residential Landlords’ Association published a report with a similar finding in 2018. The Government’s own research, disclosed during the course of the High Court hearing in December 2018, found that 25% of landlords were unwilling to rent to ‘non-UK passport holders’.
The JCWI has argued, based on their research, that where prospective tenants do not have a British passport, landlords will tend to rely on other characteristics of ‘Britishness’, such as skin colour, accents, and names. They contend that this was a foreseeable and inevitable consequence of the Right to Rent Scheme, and that the Government bears responsibility for the discriminatory acts of landlords resulting from the Scheme.
‘Everyone has a right to look for a home for themselves and their children without falling victim to racist immigration rules,’ said Chai Patel, legal policy director of the JCWI ahead of last week’s hearing. ‘Landlords faced with the risk caused by complex immigration checks inevitably end up discriminating against people without a British passport, especially ethnic minorities. It must be scrapped so that everyone has a fair shot at finding a flat, whatever the colour of their skin or their passport.’