Right to Rent – time to end this discriminatory policy

Right to Rent – time to end this discriminatory policy

Today, the High Court delivered a damning judgment on the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, finding that the desired effects of the policy have been outweighed by its potential for race discrimination.

From the outset, we argued that the scheme, which criminalised landlords who let to those without the right to rent (such as people with unsettled immigration status), would lead to further discrimination in the rental market, including for some who have every right to rent.

We provided evidence in support of the legal challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI). This included evidence from our 2015 large-scale YouGov survey of over a thousand private landlords. It found:

  • Almost half of landlords who make letting decisions said that the right to rent checks would make them less likely to consider letting to people who didn’t hold a British passport or who ‘appeared to be immigrants’.
  • Over a third admitted that ‘it’s natural that stereotypes and prejudices come into it when I decide who to let to’.

We’re extremely pleased by today’s judgment, which finds that the scheme breaches human rights, and that a proposed roll-out to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation of its efficacy and discriminatory impact would breach the Equality Act 2010.

As we’ve previously highlighted, a disproportionate number of black, Asian and other minority ethnic households are homeless: one in three homeless households aren’t white, compared to around one in seven in the general population.

If we are to address this, then government policy must not compound the barriers that people already face in finding a private rental. As the judgment acknowledges, ‘race discrimination is a particularly invidious kind of discrimination’.

People, including families with children, must not be put at risk of homelessness or destitution because of their race or nationality.

In 2015, the Government’s rationale for tougher right to rent measures was that it would ‘control immigration, making sure we put hard-working British families first’.

But, as we previously blogged, the Right to Rent scheme means that anyone who can’t prove they have a right to rent, such as people fleeing domestic abuse without their documents, or the 14% of English people over 16 years old who don’t have a passport, could be put at risk of homelessness.

Furthermore, people without a British-sounding name or accent could be at risk of losing out in the rental market, as they are passed over by landlords or letting agents, without being able to prove discrimination.

If the Government is serious about ending homelessness and, in particular, the injustice of disproportionate levels of BAME homelessness, it must act now to ditch the Right to Rent scheme.