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Right to Rent does breach human rights law

1 March 2019

The High Court has ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law.

Right to Rent was introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary. It was a key aspect of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants and made landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants. The initiative has consistently proved controversial with both landlords and with human rights campaigners.  

In 2018 the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) brought a case against the government, supported by The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Liberty, claiming the policy is incompatible with human rights on the grounds that it drives discrimination against non-UK nationals who might be in the country legitimately and British ethnic minorities.

Delivering what the RLA describes in Letting Agent Today as "a damning verdict", in the High Court today Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that the scheme does breach the European Convention on Human Rights and that discrimination by landlords is taking place “because of the Scheme.” He found that “the safeguards used by the Government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective” and concluded that “the Government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity.”

The RLA is now calling on the government to accept the decision, scrap the Right to Rent, and “consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration, without having to rely on untrained landlords to do the job of the Home Office.”

Commenting on the High Court ruling, Andrew Bulmer, IRPM CEO, said: “If the objective was to control illegal immigration, then this policy was never going to work well and would lead to the issues that the High Court have so robustly describes. Trusted voices in industry said so at the time. Why does this matter? Because this was legislation drawn up to address a political agenda; never a good idea. We must avoid the same mistake reforming our tenure laws. 

“For sure, leasehold and commonhold both need reform. Opportunities to pick the pockets of leaseholders must be closed off. IRPM is in the thick of much of that work. But the biggest reforms of tenure since the end of feudalism must be done with care. Likewise new H&S legislation coming soon. There is a very real and very significant chance of unintended consequences biting our customers and there is no sense swapping one set of harms for another. Government is listening to all stakeholders and doubtless will craft new laws they think will work. As they do, all stakeholders should roll up their sleeves and get involved, stress-testing the proposals and really thinking hard about the details. We don’t want to be re-writing chunks of poor legislation for decades to come while confusion and customer harm reigns.”

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