Home Office faces legal challenge over Theresa May's landlord immigration checks

Research suggests scheme encourages discrimination and foreigners and ethnic minorities

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Indy Politics

The Government is facing a legal challenge over its policy of forcing landlords to conduct immigration checks on their tenants.

The so-called “Right to Rent” scheme was piloted in parts of the UK from December 2014 and came into force across England in February 2016.

The aim of the scheme is to deny undocumented migrants housing and thus encourage them to leave the UK. It does this by requiring landlords to check whether someone has the right to be in the UK. It was introduced while Theresa May was Home Secretary.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is on Tuesday writing to the Home Office to call for a halt to the rollout of the scheme and for a full evaluation of its effects.

The challenge, which JCWI says it will take to court if the Government fails to comply, comes after research from February found the policy appeared to be encouraging racial discrimination by landlords.

One mystery shopping exercise conducted by the JCWI found that a British BME (black and minority ethnic) person enquiring about a house without a passport was turned down by 26 per cent more likely to be turned down by landlords than a British BME person with a passport. Meanwhile a white British person without a passport was only 11 per cent more likely to be turned down than a white British person with a passport.

And 42 per cent of surveyed landlords also said they would be less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme, while 51 per cent said the scheme would make them less likely to consider renting to foreign nationals.

The Council is crowdfunding its legal fees for the challenge against the policy.

Saira Grant, Chief Executive of JCWI, said: “In the face of clear evidence of discrimination under Right to Rent, the Government must show it is not acting illegally before it presses ahead with a rollout to the rest of the UK.

“This is a scheme that not only discriminates against BME Britons, foreign nationals and British nationals without passports – it imposes costs on landlords, agents and tenants too. 

“In the absence of any clear plan to monitor its effects the Government must carry out a thorough review – until then, any extension to other parts of the UK would be premature, dangerous, and potentially illegal.”