Private landlords could be charged for discrimination under the Right to Rent scheme, after the High Court ruled that attempting to evict a tenant who does not have the right to rent a property in the UK would breach the Equality Act.
Right to Rent, which is one of the Government’s flagship immigration policies, has now been branded a farce after the ruling. The High Court concluded that a landlord who seeks to repossess their property when the Home Office tells them that a tenant does not have the right to rent is breaching equalities law.
Under the scheme, landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of all prospective tenants, with the risk of prosecution if they know or have reasonable cause to believe that someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK occupies the property. Theresa May, as Home Secretary, introduced Right to Rent as a key plank of the Government’s hostile environment for illegal immigrants.
If the Home Office identifies a tenant without the right to rent, it will issue a formal notice to the landlord, who then uses this as the basis to repossess their property. In a judgement issued by the High Court, it has ruled that this breaches the Equality Act, on the basis that it amounts to “direct discrimination on the basis of nationality”.
While the wording of the Act means that the Home Secretary cannot be prosecuted for this, landlords who are forced to comply with the notice can be charged under the law, as well as being at risk of a civil claim being made against them.
This ruling gives tenants who may not legally be allowed to be in the country a defence against any claim to evict them from a property, and entitles them to an injunction to prevent eviction and possibly a further claim for damages.
A further ruling, earlier this month, by the High Court concluded that the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights, on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities. The judge concluded that Right to Rent caused landlords to discriminate, where otherwise they would not, describing such discrimination as being “logical and wholly predictable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is writing to the Home Office to seek urgent changes to address what it is describing as a farcical situation.
David Smith, the Policy Director of the RLA, says: “This new ruling makes the Right to Rent a farce. To put landlords in a position where acting on a direct instruction provided by the Home Office leaves them open to breaching equality law cannot be tolerated.
“With the High Court having ruled that discrimination is baked into the Right to Rent scheme, it is time for the policy to be scrapped altogether.”