Right to Rent laws that demand landlords check out the residency status of tenants has been thrown into disarray by a ruling in the High Court.
After months considering the case, Justice Martin Spencer has decided the scheme contravenes the human rights of immigrants and ethnic minorities because it leads to discrimination.
He also ruled extending the laws from England to the rest of the UK without a review would breach equality legislation.
The case was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).
Right to Rent calls for landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, but the JCWI claimed this discriminated against foreign nationals and UK citizens with an immigrant background who did not hold a passport.
“In my judgment, the evidence, when taken together, strongly showed not only that landlords are discriminating against potential tenants on grounds of nationality and ethnicity but also that they are doing so because of the scheme,” said the verdict.
“Whilst any individual piece of evidence would not, by itself, be sufficient to lead to this conclusion, the evidence as a whole when taken together powerfully shows that this is the result.
“The safeguards used by the government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective.
“In my judgment, in those circumstances, the government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the scheme.”
The Home Office is considering the verdict and has yet to comment.
In the first two years of operation – from March 2016 until the end of March 2018 – the Home Office confirmed 405 landlords and letting agents were fined £265,000 for breaking Right to Rent rules.
Permission to appeal has been granted so for the time being, nothing changes for landlords and agents who must continue to do right to rent checks as normal. However, this judgment may spell the end of such checks but we will have to see the outcome of any appeal (if there is one) or what happens next.