The Government is being urged to scrap or at least set up an independent inquiry into the Right to Rent scheme before it is rolled out beyond England after widespread evidence of discrimination by landlords and agents has emerged.
A report titled ‘Passport Please’ by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) found that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are being discriminated against in the private rental housing market as a result of Right to Rent.
The JCWI conducted surveys of landlords and a mystery shopping exercise to assess how the Right to Rent scheme has been implemented since its introduction in October 2015.
Just over half (51%) of landlords and agents said they were now less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals from outside the EU, while 18% were less likely to rent to EU nationals as well.
The mystery shopping exercise found that where neither a white British tenant nor a black or ethnic minority (BME) British tenant had a passport, the BME tenant was 14% more likely to be turned away or ignored.
JCWI’s mystery shopping exercise found no evidence of ethnicity discrimination where a non BME and a BME British citizen both held passports – suggesting that the discrimination arises from the scheme itself.
Additionally, 85% of inquiries from asylum seekers, stateless persons and victims of modern day slavery, who require landlords to do an online check with the Home Office to confirm they have been granted permission to rent, received no response at all from landlords in the mystery shopping exercise.
Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, said: “We have been warning for some time that the Right to Rent scheme is failing on all fronts.
“It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position, and there is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration.
“Creating a so-called ‘hostile environment’ that targets vulnerable men, women and children is bad enough, implementing a scheme that traps and discriminates against British citizens is absurd.
“Expanding the scheme to devolved nations without taking into account the discrimination it causes would be misguided and unjustifiable. It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage.”