EYE NEWSFLASH: Right to Rent ‘breaches human rights’ court ruling

Right to Rent, by which letting agents and landlords have to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, breaches human rights laws, the High Court has ruled.

The regime was introduced in England in 2016 and carries both civil and criminal penalties.

Under Right to Rent landlords – or their agents – are responsible 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.

The checks need to be carried out face to face checks on all adult occupiers. 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.

The High Court this morning said it would be illegal to roll the scheme out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation.

The Home Office expressed disappointment with today’s ruling on the challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the Residential Landlords Association.

Today, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said that the Right to Rent scheme – introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary – breached the European Convention on Human Rights, saying that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals and also British ethnic minorities. The Judge concluded that discrimination was taking place “because of the scheme”.

He said that Right to Rent actually caused landlords to discriminate.

He also said that the Government’s own evaluation of the scheme had failed to consider discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and he criticised the “ineffective” safeguards provided by the Government to prevent discrimination through its online guidance and telephone advice line.

The ruling, as we understand it, does not mean that landlords and agents in England can stop making Right to Rent checks. ARLA is advising its members that they must carry on doing so.

The RLA and the JCWI are calling for an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary, and both organisations are calling for the scheme to be scrapped.

Housing lawyer David Smith, who is also policy director for the RLA, said: “We call on the Government to accept the [court’s] decision, scrap 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.”

Chai Patel, legal policy director to the JCWI, said: “There is no place for racism in the UK housing market. Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it.

“But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools.

“Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the Hostile Environment must be dismantled.”

Chief executive of housing charity Crisis Jon Sparkes said: “It is fantastic news that the High Court has ruled that this discriminatory policy be reviewed, taking the vital first step needed to scrap it altogether.

“Every day, our frontline staff hear of the overwhelming difficulties faced by homeless people trying to find a tenancy in the already saturated rental market.

“This is made even harder if someone has to prove their immigration status, especially as official documents like passports can often be lost sleeping rough, moving from hostel to hostel, or fleeing domestic abuse – and replacements can be prohibitively expensive.

“And as a result of this policy, many landlords are avoiding renting to anyone they don’t believe to be British to avoid the threat of prosecution if they accidentally rent to the wrong person.

“This can’t carry on. The Government must act now to end this policy.”

Rachel Hartley, communications manager at ARLA Propertymark, said: “We are urgently calling on the Government now to provide clarity before any further steps are taken in relation to freedom of movement post Brexit, or phase 3 rollout.”



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  1. Will2

    I hope James Brokenshire mp takes note as he was part of the machinery which introduced this together with mrs May’s hostile environment approach.  Putting agents and landlords into the unreasonable position of acting as unpaid border agency staff amongst their other landlord bashing antics.

  2. simonh

    What about fee bans resulting in discrimination against benefit recipients and people with challenging financial history. And deposit caps discriminating against tenants with pets and challenging financial histories?

    It’s going to be an interesting few months…

    1. Will2

      i agree totally!

      1. P-Daddy

        Stories and headlines like this breach my Human Rights to expect that the world around me should apply some common sense and doesn’t just look to tick a box to delegate responsibility.

    2. CoastLet

      You couldn’t make it up could you!! Tasked to do a job that clearly should come under Home Office jurisdiction and now Agent’s and Landlords are being discriminative!!

      Very good points raised about the fee ban and discrimination…even before this news I have been wondering when we get our first applicants with pets or HB complaining that we are being at best obstructive or at worst discriminatory.

      I guess this is what happens when ill thought-out legislation is introduced without any meaningful consultation processes and a determination to proceed at all costs in order to win votes…..it really does border on negligence!

  3. jeremy1960

    At last some common sense, I just wish that some of the organisations that are meant to represent landlords and agents had had some backbone and stood up to this corrupt bunch at Westminster. If that had happened maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here looking down the barrel of a gun at a fee ban. Really would have been better in some ways if the High Court had deemed that agents should do teh checks and get paid a decent fee for doing them!

    What’s next then? Is the house of cards and list of ridiculous legislation about to collapse? We can but hope.

    1. Will2

      I strongly suspect the landlord and agent organisation made strong representation against the proposals. The problem is government consult and ignore or manipulate those consultation responses and legislate anyway.  You probably hit the nail on the head with your description of government!

  4. rsvstu97

    The law of unintended consequences in action. The current intake of politicians are simply the most incompetent in history.

    Everything they touch is a disaster. Like shipping companies with no ships.


    1. IWONDER36

      Odd how this has come to light just before Brexit is supposed to happen and the flood-gates are opened to rest of the world!

      We have come to expect Ill thought out, rushed through policies that seem like they were written on the back of a beer mat.

      I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. BAN all politicians from all self-promoting social media platforms!

      Their hunger for online stardom and self promotion/votes is leading to a Hyena mentality when it comes to them circling estate and letting agents, but which industry is next for the cull?

      Ministers certainly are biting some of the hands that feed them, they seem bad for business on all sides as they appease the work shy for their votes.

      What minister can logically agree with pushing small businesses to the brink of bankruptcy by preventing them from charging for their services and still keep asking them to pay more by way of higher wages, staff pensions, training, higher workloads, increased legislation, and then award themselves an above inflation pay rise from our taxes?

      When they’ve finished there’ll be hard working business owners and their staff joining the benefit system in despair at trying to make it, while those around them spend a lifetime doing very nicely out the benefit system and mobility entitlements, which in turn transport them off to the beach for the day while we sweat in offices trying to meet next month’s overheads.

      Socialist utopia will back fire when there aren’t the business to employ people, fairly or otherwise, and the only ones that remain are the faceless giants who somehow managed to be pre-advised on how to ride the sh*t storm been thrown at them, I wonder if they pay fees for the extra leg up and whether they should be transparent about them!

      We were recently invited to a parliamentary discussion dinner regarding the letting industry, only 2K per head. We politely declined, based on the fact that nobody in their right mind should be asking a small business to pay £2000 each to discuss something that they should have been asked their opinion on before legislation was forced through, especially by the elected MP’s whose wages we already pay to represent us too. That, and the fact that there can’t be a Chef in the land worthy of such an expensive dinner ticket, which sets the mind racing as to where the majority of that money is going?

      We are but mere mortals you know!

      Here’s a novel idea, you can rent a house if you can afford to pay the rent, are prepared to treat it with respect, and don’t cause a nuisance, but the owners of the house can decide who they do and don’t want living in it!

      When I was a kid I would never lend my lone ranger mask to the kid that constantly blew snot bubbles, not because I was prejudiced toward him, but because it was my lovely clean mask and I wanted it to stay that way.

      On another note, BBC, please give Question Time to Jeremy Paxman, or someone else who won’t let them get away with an easy ride, the panel are not supposed to know what questions they’ll be asked, yet they often refer to their notes before answering, if you can call the majority of the drivel they spout an answer.

      Do politicians not get how sick of them all we all are?





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