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News: Landlords give preference to white people with British passports, court told

Thu, 20 Dec 18

A number of buy-to-let landlords are discriminating against prospective tenants based on their nationality and ethnicity due to the impact that the Right to Rent scheme is having on the private rental market, a court has heard.

The government’s controversial initiative, which forces landlords to undertake immigration checks on prospective tenants, is currently being challenged in the High Court.

Under the scheme, which was introduced in 2016, landlords face the prospect of prosecution 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.

The judicial review case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrant (JCWI), which began yesterday and concludes today, argues that the measures puts people who have a legal right to be in the UK at risk of homelessness and destitution.

Philippa Kaufman QC, the barrister representing JCWI, told the Court the scheme encourages landlords to give preference to white people with British passports in order to reduce the risk of prosecution.

She described Right to Rent as an “onerous scheme” which presents “huge risks and burdens” for landlords, adding: “If someone is a British citizen they know they are safe. 

“The evidence shows they prefer not just a British national but a British national with a passport to show, because then they can be sure there is no doubt.

“BAME British citizens are treated less favourably when they don’t have a passport than white British citizens. Where they do not have a passport you then resort to proxies – do they appear British? – ie skin colour, name, accent, and so forth.”

The hearing comes as fresh research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) shows 44% of private landlords are now less likely to rent to those without a British passport, up from 42% last year.

Chai Patel, legal policy director for JCWI, has accused the home secretary, Sajid Javid, of “ignoring” a report earlier this year by David Bolt, independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, which concluded that the Right to Rent has “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office is “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”

“This is extraordinarily intrusive red tape that conscripts landlords as border officials on pain of imprisonment, and Sajid Javid won’t even check that it’s working as planned,” Patel added.

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