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UN report says "right to rent" checks "racially discriminatory" in effect

 The UN Special Rapporteur on racism and human rights Professor Tendayi Achiume has has published a report on racism and discrimination in the UK. The report makes specific mention of the controversial "right to rent" checks as a policy that claims to be racially-neutral, but has an ultimately discriminatory impact on people from minority backgrounds. 

Right to rent checks

The "right to rent" policy  obliges landlords and agents in England to check the immigration status of all potential tenants and to deny tenancy to certain categories of immigrants, or risk civil and criminal penalties."Right to rent" checks were introduced by then Home Secretary Theresa May as part of her "hostile environment" policy, designed to make the UK a less attractive prospect for people without legal residency status.  In March of this year, the High Court of Justice in England has ruled that the government's Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law and could not be rolled out to Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland without further evaluation.  That case was brought by  Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI),  which had previously reported that migrants, British citizens without passports and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups living in England are being discriminated against when searching for a home in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), due to the Government’s Right to Rent Scheme.  

UN expresses "great concern" over policy

In the report, the UN Special Rapporteur expresses particular concern over the fact that neither asylum seekers nor victims of trafficking have an automatic right to rent and must, instead, request "permission to rent" from the Home Office, a requirement that further deters landlords from renting to this group and places additional barriers in front of incredibly vulnerable people. As a result of the checks, Black and minority ethnic households, who are more likely that White households to rent privately, are more likely to be required to produce residency documentation than their White counterparts. The UN report cites a 2017 survey from JWCI which found that 51% of landlords were less likely to rent to foreign nationals as a result of this policy, and that landlords were less likely to rent to individuals with "foreign accents or names", even if these persons are UK citizens. 

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This article was written on 19 June 2019. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.