News

February's new ‘Right to rent’ checks set to crank up racial discrimination

Friday 15 January 2016
General

The Home Office this week reminded landlords in England that there is ‘less than a month to go’ until new ‘right to rent’ checks go live.

From 1st February, landlords in England will have a legal 'duty' to check the immigration status of their tenants, as per section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014.

The Home Office yesterday reminded landlords in England that there is ‘less than a month to go’ until new ‘right to rent’ checks go live.

From 1st February, landlords in England will have a legal 'duty' to check the immigration status of their tenants, as per section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: “Right to rent is part of the government’s wider reforms to the immigration system to make it stronger, fairer and more effective. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected. The scheme is about deterring those without the right to live, work or study in the UK from staying here indefinitely”. Landlords (including sub-letting tenants and people taking in a lodger) who are found to be renting property to people who do not have appropriate immigration status, and/or who provide ‘checked’ documents which are ‘obviously false’ will receive between a £3,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

For many, the checks will be an unwelcome change in policy. In November 2014, Frances Webber from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) expressed deep concerns that “Forcing private landlords to police undocumented migrants will exacerbate inequality and deflect blame for the housing shortage”.

The natural trajectory of such a move is that landlords might be inclined to adopt racial profiling when selecting and rejecting tenants, making it even harder for black, asian and other minority and migrant groups to secure tenancies, regardless of their immigration status. Webber reports that the government was willing to “accept the likelihood of discrimination against BME renters but believes it has done enough by issuing a code of practice to avoid discrimination, which suggests that landlords perform the checks on everyone”.

In September 2015, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) published the results of a survey, revealing that 42% of landlords said the new checks made them less likely to let a property to someone who does not have a British passport, and 27% said they were in fact reluctant to rent to people who had foreign-sounding names or accents.

Writing for the Independent in October last year, Jane Merrick reported the shadow Home Secretary’s fears that “Right to Rent in its current form could lead to widespread discrimination. Of course, we have come a long way as a society since landlords displayed unwelcoming notices in their windows. But the new document checks could become the modern equivalent of the ‘no dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ signs and, by being more insidious, such casual discrimination will be far harder to challenge”.

 

Citizens Advice Bureau help pages on discrimination in housing: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/discrimination-in-housing/

Right to Rent scheme risks discriminating against immigrants, warns Andy Burnham’ by Jane Merrick, writing for the Independent on 10th October 2015
Landlord Penalties and the Right to Housing’, by Frances Webber, Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on 27th November 2014.


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