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JCWI: Immigration Act's Right to Rent scheme is causing discrimination

Date of Publication: 
14 February 2017

Major new report says immigration checks mean foreign nationals are discriminated against in rental market

JCWI: Immigration Act's Right to Rent scheme is causing discrimination

14 February 2017

A major new report released yesterday by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) examines the impact of the Immigration Act 2014's Right to Rent scheme a year on from its nationwide roll-out across England.

Passport Please: The impact of the Right to Rent checks on migrants and ethnic minorities in England can be read here.

The Right to Rent scheme aims to deny irregular migrants access to the private rental market and thereby encourage them to leave the UK voluntarily. Under the scheme, every new tenant has to prove to private landlords and their agents that they have the right to live in the UK.

JCWI finds in its 101-page report that the scheme has led to foreign nationals being discriminated against.

JCWI surveyed 108 landlords and 208 letting agents for the report. Over half of landlord's surveyed (51%) stated that they are now less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals from outside the EU, and almost a fifth (18%) said they were less likely to rent to EU nationals as well.

In addition to the surveys, JCWI undertook a mystery shopping exercise at the initial point of contact with landlords. In total, 1,708 mystery shopping enquiries were analysed. The report notes: "The mystery shopping scenario in which the prospective tenant was not British, but had indefinite leave to remain in the UK, was also 20% more likely to receive a negative response or no response compared to a British citizen."

JCWI also found that 42% of landlords surveyed said that they were now less likely to rent to anyone who does not have a British passport.

Discrimination was found to be greater for the British Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) group. JCWI found that a BME British tenant without a passport was 26% more likely to receive a negative response or no response than the BME tenant who could provide a British passport, whereas that figure fell to just 11% for a white British tenant.

As JCWI found no evidence of racial discrimination between the BME and white British scenarios where both had a British passport, the report says this strongly suggests that the discrimination found is as a result of the Right to Rent scheme.

JCWI says that asylum seekers, stateless persons, and victims of modern day slavery face the greatest problems.

"The most vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers, stateless persons, and victims of modern day slavery, who require landlords to do an online check with the Home Office to confirm they have been granted permission to rent, face the greatest barrier of all. Out of 150 mystery shopping enquiries from prospective tenants who asked landlords to conduct an online check, 85% received no response. Only 12% of enquiries received a response that might invite a follow up, such as a phone call or a viewing. Only three responses explicitly stated that the landlord was willing to conduct an online check. If landlords are not willing to conduct an online check for these prospective tenants this can amount to indirect racial discrimination. In addition, 82% of organisations surveyed stated that people who lacked clear identity documents had been adversely affected by the scheme and 71% stated that asylum seekers had been adversely affected. This form of discrimination would also affect people whose documents are with the Home Office, or who have ongoing legal cases," the report states.

The Government is said to be failing to adequately monitor the scheme to measure whether or not it is working as intended, or whether it is causing discrimination, with the only monitoring that has occurred being a consultative panel that has met infrequently.

In conclusion, the report finds that the Right to Rent scheme is being implemented in a discriminatory way and it is occurring in the way that JCWI and others predicted that it would, including many parliamentarians during the passage of the legislation.

"The Right to Rent scheme conscripts ordinary members of civil society into the immigration enforcement arm of the Government, and does so in such a crude and ham-fisted fashion that it creates structural incentives for them to discriminate unlawfully against foreigners and ethnic minorities. It has no place in British life or in British law. In light of these findings this failed experiment should be abandoned and the Right to Rent scheme must be abolished", the report states.

Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, was quoted in a press release as saying: "We have been warning for some time that the Right to Rent scheme is failing on all fronts. It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position, and there is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration. Creating a so called 'hostile environment' that targets vulnerable men, women and children is bad enough, implementing a scheme that traps and discriminates against British citizens is absurd. Expanding the scheme to devolved nations without taking into account the discrimination it causes would be misguided and unjustifiable. It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage."

The Residential Landlords Association reported earlier this month that a total of 91 landlords have been issued with civil penalties since the Right to Rent scheme was rolled out a year ago.