UK Govt’s Right to Rent Policy Faces Challenge in Court Over Immigration Checks

The case is being launched by a campaign group against the right to rent scheme that directs landlords to check whether a tenant can legally rent residential property in England.


The UK government could be challenged in court over a Home Office policy according to which landlords are required to check the immigration status of potential tenants, the Guardian reported.

The case is being launched by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a campaign group which won the right to launch a case in the high court. It sought high court’s permission to challenge the right to rent policy, which directs landlords to check with the Home Office whether a tenant or lodger can legally rent the residential property in England. 

The scheme was introduced as part of the “hostile environment” steps in 2015 by British Prime Minister Theresa May. The parliament was then assured that the policy would be assessed thoroughly and transparently. However, no such evaluation has been done till now, the Independent reported.

JCWI cautioned that forcing landlords to check the immigration status of to-be tenants “incentivizes discrimination,” which amounts to breaching the European Convention on Human Rights. It said that the scheme should be revised before being rolled out further.

“Even if landlords have no desire to discriminate or be prejudiced, because they’re risking fines or having to find a new tenant, many landlords will pick people with British passports over people who don’t have them,” Chai Patel, the legal policy director at JCWI, was quoted as saying by the Independent.

Many politicians, landlords and immigration lawyers have expressed their concerns regarding the scheme. David Smith, the policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, pointed out that the right to rent scheme had put landlords “in the impossible position of acting as untrained border police trying to ascertain who does and who does not have the right to be in the country. This has created difficulties for many legitimate tenants as landlords are forced to play safe and only rent to those with a UK passport,” Smith said, the Guardian reported.

On June 5, a group of 20 politicians wrote to the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, urging him to review the scheme. They cited an inspection report from March 2018 conducted by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI), David Bolt, that showed that there was no proof that immigration enforcement was being improved by the scheme.

“Whilst we believe that the government should bring this policy to an immediate end, the government must, at the very least, commit to evaluating this scheme thoroughly, particularly as it risks putting people at risk of homelessness and may increase the risk of modern slavery and trafficking,” the letter stated, according to the Independent.

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