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"Right to rent" cannot be rolled out to Northern Ireland

The High Court of Justice in England has ruled that the government's Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law and cannot be rolled out to Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland without further evaluation. 

What is the Right to Rent scheme?

The "right to rent" required landlords in the pilot areas to satisfy themselves as to a tenant's right of residence in the UK. A landlord who fails to comply with the requirements of the scheme could face prosecution, and a fine or maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment on conviction. The scheme was a key element of the government's intention to create a "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants in the UK, but has faced strong criticism from landlords, rights organisations and groups advocating for minority groups. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI),  which brought this case, previously published a report which found 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.  

Court ruling

The court ruled that the scheme caused unacceptable racial discrimination. Mr Justice Spencer found that

  • the government's own evaluation of the policy "failed to consider discrimination on tgrounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of enthicity" and the safeguards put in place by Government to avoid discrimination "have proved ineffective"
  • the policy caused racial discrimination against anyone without a British passport and against ethnic minorities
  • the Government had failed to show that the check had any concrete effect on discouraging illegal immigration

The successful challenge to the Right to rent scheme was brought by the JCWI, with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Residential Landlord's Association and Liberty intervening. 

The government will now need to comprehensively redesign the scheme if they wish to reintroduce it.  The Home Office has been granted permission to appeal this ruling. 

The full judgment is available on Bailii

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Case law, Legal

This article was written on 1 March 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.