Right to rent policy faces legal challenges

by Gary Whittaker

The government's 'right to rent' legislation is facing two legal challenges.

Rules introduced in 2016 by the Home Office place the full responsibility on landlords to check if a prospective tenant has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them.

In effect, this makes landlords act like border police and the policy has been heavily criticised by landlord bodies and political opponents alike. 

The latest expression of opposition has come in the form of the two court challenges, with the first concerning a woman who came to Britain as a student but whose passport was lost by the Home Office when she tried to extend her visa. 

Unable to get a replacement from her country of origin, she is seeking the right to stay as a stateless person, but could face eviction. Her lawyers argue her treatment is incompatible with the Human Rights Act. 

Derek Bernardi of the Camden Community Law Centre, which is representing the woman, said: "The government says that the right to rent policy will crack down on rogue landlords but this case is the perfect example of how it impacts vulnerable people."

The second case is being brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JWCI), which argues the law is prompting discrimination by landlords. 

It cites as evidence for this its own research carried out last year, with 51 per cent of landlords saying right to rent would make them less likely to let to overseas nationals.  

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is supporting both cases. 

Its own survey found 47 per cent of landlords were reluctant to let to a non-EU national and 42 per cent did not wish to take on tenants without passports.

The RLA also highlighted a BBC investigation that found criminal gangs have sought to bypass the rules by issuing immigrants with fake passports.

Policy director David Smith said: “When this policy was first discussed, we warned the government of the unintended consequences of the right to rent scheme. 

"How can a landlord be expected to know what every passport in every country is supposed to look like '"

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01-February-18Legal News