Right to rent history
In February 2016 the government introduced a Right to Rent policy that imposed strict document checks on anyone looking to rent out accommodation. The aim was to reduce accommodation let to illegal immigrants or over stayers. Anyone caught not checking documents could be liable to a fine or even imprisonment.
Sadly, the policy had an adverse effect on vulnerable groups of people .These included former asylum seekers (who had been given status to remain in the UK ). Other victims of these checks human trafficking survivors, stateless persons, asylum-seekers, victims of domestic violence, as well as other similarly vulnerable individuals.
When choosing tenants researchers found that landlords tended to favour applicant who were felt to have what they perceived as more ‘traditional’ sounding ‘British’ names, which of course tending to work against man people with BAME backgrounds or names associated with new and emerging communities. Not surprisingly this tended to impact disproportionately on people who landlords felt might be ‘complicated’ to rent to because of the need to undertake immigration document checks.
In March 2019 the High Court ruled that the test being used effectively prevented people from BAME communities from renting properties, and was "discriminatory" in that it breached human rights legislation..
Among the comments made in determining the issue the Court ruled that:
‘’The extent of the discrimination is such that it is a short further step to conclude that this is having a real effect on the ability of those in the discriminated classes to obtain accommodation, either because they cannot get such accommodation at all or because it is taking significantly longer for them to secure accommodation.
… I have come to the firm conclusion that the Defendant has failed to justify the Scheme, indeed it has not come close to doing so. On the basis that the first question for the court to decide is whether Parliament’s policy, accorded all due respect, is manifestly without reasonable foundation, I so find. On that basis, there is no balancing of competing interests to be performed.
However, even if I am wrong about that, I would conclude that, in the circumstances of this case, Parliament’s policy has been outweighed by its potential for race discrimination. As I have found, the measures have a disproportionately discriminatory effect and I would assume and hope that those legislators who voted in favour of the Scheme would be aghast to learn of its discriminatory effect…”
Where we’re at now?
Currently the legislation is still in place and some landlord organisations advising that the policy still stands and that landlords should continue with their checks.
However, we are unsure if the policy will have longevity or if the Home Office will challenge the ruling. They’ve said that there will be more guidance issued soon.
If in the meantime you’re unsure we advise you to get independent advice.
Keep up to date
For more information about The Right to Rent you could try looking at the government’s website: