Judges have backed a Government appeal against a High Court ruling last year that the Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights and causes discrimination against non-UK nationals and also British ethnic minorities.
The Home Office had launched an appeal against the ruling and was yesterday backed by judges who said the scheme doesn’t “intend, encourage or directly create discrimination.”
It highlighted that a code of practice accompanying the Immigration Act 2014, which created the Right to Rent scheme, set out that landlords should conduct checks without breaching equality legislation.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), had presented evidence in the initial case of landlords favouring those with a British passport other those with ID cards, but the Court of Appeal judges backed Government claims that this could be a preference for the type of documents, which is not discriminatory.
It was also queried whether a landlord would make a rational or logical decision to discriminate as part of Right to Rent and be in breach of the Equality Act.
The ruling concluded that while discrimination as a result of the scheme “whilst quite possibly foreseeable, was clearly not inevitable.”
It accepted that landlords discriminate against those who do not have British passports as a result of “administrative convenience and a fear of the consequences of letting to an irregular immigrant.”
But it was concluded that this wasn’t due to the design of the scheme and said it was up to the Government to enforce both Right to Rent and Equality Act obligations.
The ruling also added that most landlords are compliant and said the process requires the checking and copying of at most, two identity documents, estimated to take 20 minutes, which is something employers also manage to do.
It said: “If the discrimination is greater than Parliament envisaged when enacting the provisions, , then that is a matter for Parliament.”
The JCWI, which took the case to court with the RLA, said it would now take the issue to the Supreme Court.
A statement from the JCWI said: “Any amount of racial discrimination is unacceptable.
“Right to Rent turns landlords into untrained border guards. If they rent a property to someone without the right paperwork, they face huge fines or even imprisonment.
“But there is effectively no consequence for taking the ‘low-risk’ option, opting for white people with British passports.
“The result is that the Court of Appeal thought it could take black people, ethnic minorities and migrants up to twice as long to find a property to rent as a white British person.
“The Government should be doing everything in its power to stamp out discrimination – instead, it is still arguing it should be allowed to cause it.”
Right to Rent was launched in 2016 and gave landlords – or their agents – responsibility for checking the immigration status of their tenants with the prospect of prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.
If landlords or agents are challenged by immigration enforcement, they need to be able to evidence checks. Failure can lead to fines of up to £3,000 per occupier.
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