THE two contenders slugging it out for leadership of the Conservative Party — and by default the office of Prime Minister — are being urged to scrap the controversial right to rent scheme.
A coalition of organisations made up of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), and the3million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, have united in calling on Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to scrap the policy after the High Court ruled it causes discrimination against British ethnic minorities.
Under the policy, private landlords face potential imprisonment of up to five years 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.
It was introduced by Theresa May when Home Secretary as part of the Home Office’s hostile environment.
“The Right to Rent has been a failure,” said David Smith, the RLA’s policy director. “No one has been prosecuted under the scheme but it has created a great deal of anxiety for landlords who do not want to go to prison for getting it wrong. Landlords should not be used to cover for the failings in the UK Border Agencies.”
Nicolas Hatton, chief executive of the3million, said: “Two-thirds of EU citizens in the UK live in private rented housing and will be affected if this failed scheme continues.
“We are already seeing that landlords are less likely to rent to anyone without a British passport, and uncertainty about Brexit added to the hostile environment will only increase the discrimination EU citizens are facing. We urge the UK government to scrap this scheme and end the discrimination.”
The call to abolish right to rent, made in a letter to both candidates for Conservative Party leadership, follows damning criticism by the High Court earlier this year that the right to rent breaches human rights law because it causes racial discrimination that otherwise would not happen.
Following a Judicial Review of the policy secured by the JCWI and supported by the RLA, the presiding judge concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the scheme.” In his judgment he said that discrimination by landlords was “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.
The chief inspector of borders and immigration has also concluded the right to rent had “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance”.
“The Home Office is now arguing in its appeal that it is justified in causing racial discrimination against British ethnic minority families struggling to find a home,” said Chai Patel, the JCWI’s legal policy director. “It is arguing that black and brown British people’s dignity, humanity, and rights can be tossed aside to pursue Theresa May’s Hostile Environment.
“That cannot be acceptable in modern Britain. The new Prime Minister must commit to ending landlord immigration checks, and the discrimination they cause.”