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Home Office braced for legal challenges against Right to Rent scheme

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Fri 02 Feb 2018

Home Office braced for legal challenges against Right to Rent scheme

Two legal bids have been mounted against the Government’s controversial Right to Rent scheme, whereby agents have to check a prospective tenant’s immigration status.

The Camden Community Law Centre (CCLC) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) have both brought challenges against the Home Office.

The CCLC is representing a woman who claims she failed a Right to Rent check as her passport was lost by the Home Office, while the JCWI is bringing a judicial review of the rules themselves.

Right to Rent was introduced in February 2016 with civil fines against landlords – or their agents –  who let to tenants without a right to live in the UK. Criminal sanctions were put in place last year.

Under the regime, landlords or their agents are required to check and verify the ID of all prospective tenants, including British people who may not have identifying documentation such as passports or driving licences. This has led to criticism that landlords and letting agents have become the UK’s border force.

JCWI research has also found that 48% of landlords were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme because of the threat of criminal sanctions. This poses serious difficulties for the 17% UK residents who do not have a passport, the JCWI said.

JCWI has also warned that the scheme has made 51% of landlords less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals.

The Residential Landlords Association is to support both cases.

David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “When this policy was first discussed we warned the Government of the unintended consequences of the Right to Rent scheme. How can a landlord be expected to know what every passport in every country is supposed to look like?

“For the overwhelming majority of landlords it makes no commercial sense to limit their access to a large proportion of the prospective tenant market. It is the fear of criminal sanctions for getting it wrong which is causing many simply to want to play it safe.

“Landlords should not be used as scapegoats for the failures of the border agencies. It is time to suspend this controversial and unwelcome policy.”